Tafelmusik

An Illusory Intertwingling of Reason and Response

Philosophy: I wax philosophical, and many times violently politico-philosophical. If you can stand the heat, here’s the kitchen: enjoy your stay . . .

Tafel :: philosophy

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Friday, September 05, 2008

The Abortion Non-Issue

If you plan to vote for a major-party presidential candidate in the upcoming election, abortion is a non-issue.

I'm a member, generally, of what the press condescendingly refers to as the "values voter republican base". It the (albeit few) years I've been able to vote, I've only once not voted Republican, and that was for a state office (I voted Libertarian, by the way, not Democrat, so don't start getting ideas).

I believe that public policy is "values", and thus values are the only reasonable basis for a vote. Some of the values I've voted on are educational freedom, civil liberties, the right to life, and respect for the Constitution. The right to life, particularly, has been a bellwether issue: I've never voted for a pro-abortion candidate.

There are currently two presidential nominees that have any chance whatsoever of taking office: Barack Obama and John McCain. Obama is very outspoken in his pro-abortion stance, which has led most of my fellow "values voters" to assume what the Republican party is desperately attempting to promulgate: that McCain is in some sense anti-abortion.

Don't you believe it.

1999 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle

But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.

May 3, 2007 GOP Presidential Debate

I believe that we need to fund [embryonic stem cell research].

Those are just two of many public demonstrations of McCain's true stance on abortion: I'll not bore you with the litany, but you will find numerous examples in three or four pages of search engine hits.

Honestly, he and Obama probably agree quite a bit on most of the "values" questions: as demagogues, they probably don't hold a personal conviction either way, and simply take the public stance they feel will garner them the most votes. Anyone who can believe

If you're voting for a major-party ticket in the upcoming presidential election, you're in luck. Abortion is a non-issue. Neither candidate is pro-life, so you can scratch one more issue from your list of "important considerations".

Me? I have a candidate in mind who's on my side as far as the abortion issue goes, among agreeing with me on the vast majority of other issues.

Yes, I realize you think I'm throwing my vote away. You may even think I'm de facto supporting Obama by not supporting his ostensible rival. Don't you see, though, that, far from Republican and Democrat being the two votes available, "major-party" and "third-party" are really what's at issue.

If my vote for a third-party candidate can convince anyone else to vote by conscience rather than by some imagined expediency, it will have done more good for our country than thousands of votes for either major-party candidate. I'm young, yes. But even I've been able to catch on to the Washington tag-team game, each party playing paper tiger for the other while taking its turn in power, entirely solidifying support for major-party politics whatever happens.

I'm not convinced.

I know better.

I'm voting Barr.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

DC v. Heller

The Supreme Court, in the final day of its term, today announced the results of DC v. Heller. At issue was a Washington, D.C. ban on possession of handguns as a class of weapons.

From the majority opinion:

Held:
1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.
...
3. The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment. The District’s total ban on handgun possession in the home amounts to a prohibition on an entire class of “arms” that Americans overwhelmingly choose for the lawful purpose of self-defense. Under any of the standards of scrutiny the Court has applied to enumerated constitutional rights, this prohibition — in the place where the importance of the lawful defense of self, family, and property is most acute — would fail constitutional muster.

Note that the first point affirms one interpretation of what has been the single most contentious point of debate among Second Amendment scholars: namely, whether the Second Amendment is — like the rest of the first ten Amendments — individual, or if it is collective in its scope: that is, whether it refers to the right of State governments to organize militias without Federal interference, or to the right of individuals to possess arms without governmental interference.

See also:

News on the Opinion

About the Case

Saturday, August 18, 2007

On the Tragedy of the Commons and Freedom to Choose

In or about the year of our Lord One thousand six hundred thirty and four the then present inhabitants of the Town of Boston . . . did treat and agree . . . for the purchase of . . . any Lands living within said neck of Land called Boston after which purchase the Town laid out a plan for a trayning field for which ever since and now is used for that purpose and for the feeding of cattell.

So states a bronze plaque positioned at the edge of the fifty acres known as Boston Common.

Boston Common was an experiment, and as far as anyone knew, it should have worked. Boston's population was yet small, the cattleholders devout, civic-minded men, and the utility of a common grazing-land evident. And yet, somehow the Common shortly became overrun, muddy, and grassless — overgrazed 1. The truth of the matter is that the experiment had no chance of success, insofar as man is both selfish and rational, and will seek his own self-interest above all else. (That self-interest may, on an individual basis, include many seemingly-altruistic components is a topic for another time.)

Given two farmers and a common piece of land, each will graze as many cattle as he can. If he decides to let the land rest, so as to not overgraze it, his compatriot will simply graze the land further, annulling the positive impact of any attempt at restraint. When users of the land are added, the problem worsens. The land is doomed from the start, and any individual has no incentive refrain from "getting his" as quickly as possible: if he shows self-restraint, gains nothing but loss for himself, leaving for his neighbor what he could have taken.

And so, in timeless example that communal property is never valued as highly as individual property, the Boston Common wasted: eventually it became the last-choice and poorest-quality grazing to be had. Whatever grass sprang up was quickly devoured by those few cattle it did support, and as quickly the Common became of no use to anyone. Two hundred years later, grazing was forbidden in final acknowledgment of the failure of the Common.

Unfortunately, while we share a planet, a state, a street, a waterway, commons are with us, and must be managed. I say unfortunately because, where no communal property exists, violation of the rights of others is much simpler to avoid. However, we have myriad governmental regulatory agencies that even I, as an avowed libertarian, must admit are, at least in concept, necessary: necessary due to the fact that certain common resources must be managed.

This need for management is, of course, proportional to population. The Boston Common would probably have been a rousing success for the first fifty or hundred years of its existence if, instead of being fifty acres, it had been fifteen thousand acres. The entire complement of cattle from the Town of Boston could have grazed there continuously with no overgrazing: the Common would have been in excess of the physically-possible demand.

This state would be comparable to the first days of radio communication. Early on, few people possessed radio receivers, and fewer transmitters. The airwaves (more precisely, radio-frequency bandwidth) — of necessity a commons — were available far in excess than the possible demand.

However, as mass communication grew in importance, with it grew demand for its medium. Without regulation, no one would have seen incentive to refrain from increasing transmission power and number of frequencies transmitted above that of his neighbours. The equal rights of individuals to transmit electromagnetic signals for communication purposes would have been lost in a blind fight for power and bandwidth. Indeed, a well-heeled investor could have his message broadcast on all stations receivable by consumer radios, with strength enough to smother any competing transmission. Freedom would have been lost, not gained, by a lack of regulation.

This is where regulation finds its valid use: while it is abominable to me that a government agency can, for my ostensible protection, regulate what substances (whether they be prescription drugs or foodstuffs) I can put into my body, it is equally abominable that the free market in ideas could be maliciously disrupted with no consequence by a popular broadcaster. Regulation serves the market when, rather than manipulating the market in turn, it preserves the freedom of the market from untoward manipulation.

An example would be regulation on predatory pricing: the "commons" in this scenario is the market for a good itself. A manipulation of the "meta-market" would result from a producer who knew he could outlast his competitors selling a good at a loss. Lack of competition in would then allow the final producer to take advantage of the no-longer-free market he had created.

Even — and it is a strain to say this, because most regulation on this front has been excessive and biased in the extreme — environmental and pollution regulation have their place. In the Classical Liberal (modern-day libertarian2) ideal, I have a right to act in any way I please, so long as those actions do not infringe upon the equal rights of other citizens. Polluting a common waterway in such a way as to make the water unsuitable for common uses is clearly a violation of this ideal. However, sans regulation, no incentive to refrain exists.

However, not all commons exist in se: governments have a long (and some might say inglorious) history in the creation of commons. We now might mention one of the talking points of Garrett Hardin's classic Science essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons": that creation of a commons by a government of necessity creates a right and obligation of that government to regulate it. This cause and effect is one more item that must be considered in granting a government an additional power: does it create a commons, and are we prepared to grant the government the necessary regulatory powers?

The heading of Hardin's essay which attracted the most ardent of criticism is "Freedom to Breed is Intolerable".

Of course, most readers would disagree with Hardin's allegation, as would I. However, his logic is a result of a single choice in governmental policy: welfare. Hardin grants that the government has the power to provide for all individuals under its auspices at some basal level. He then supports the moderate, liberal, and social-democratic idea that such capability produces an obligation in the form of social welfare. However, he also acknowledges what most moderates, liberals, and social democrats of our day do not: welfare creates a commons.

If each human family were dependent only on its own resources; if the children of improvident parents starved to death; if, thus, overbreeding brought its own "punishment" to the germ line — then there would be no public interest in controlling the breeding of families. But our society is deeply committed to the welfare state, and hence is confronted with another aspect of the tragedy of the commons.

Government handouts have become a commons. All one need do to have access to these handouts is be unable or unwilling to provide like benefits for oneself. There logically follow two options: on the one side, that freedom to breed is not a necessary right, and on the other, that subsistence is not a necessary right. Hardin rightly places these, not as two necessities (as most, especially those of collectivistic leanings, would), but as opposite and contradictory extremes, the Tragedy of the Commons being the only possible outcome of the two practiced simultaneously.

Hardin, as would be expected, accepts society's demand for a social welfare system, and offers it in return the only sustainable answer. If subsistence is a commons, then the only way to ensure it remains available — to ensure that greater demand than is permanently satisfiable never occurs — is to regulate how many individuals may call upon it.

To couple the concept of freedom to breed with the belief that everyone born has an equal right to the commons is to lock the world into a tragic course of action.

So he repudiates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where it states:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society. It follows that any choice and decision with regard to the size of the family must irrevocably rest with the family itself, and cannot be made by anyone else.

Refusing to admit that subsistence is a mistakenly-opened commons, Hardin chooses rather to grant to the state authority over reproduction, that most personal of choices.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Functional?

I get really tired of the annoying tendency everyone — Christians included — has of legitimizing the commonplace. Ubiquity does not necessarily equate with morality. Okay, granted: majority neither equates with universality. I know this. It still seems like "everyone."

I was listening to a religious (I hesitate to say "Christian") radio program several days ago. It was the fourth installment of a round-table series on parenting and the family. Previously discussed were the various ways in which parenting is responsible for the behavioural and character development of children. Up now was the question of the degree to which children are responsible for their own behaviour, aside from parental influences poor or beneficial.

I would, of course, agree with the thesis behind this line of questioning. However, before the discussion could even begin, one of the panelists mentioned, by way of opening, that the question of individual responsibility was never more apt due to the many children being raised in dysfunctional families — especially single-parent families.

"Hold on," interrupts a female panelist. "I just want to clarify, because I know you didn't mean to say what it sounded like you were saying: that single-parent families are necessarily dysfunctional. I mean, there are a lot of single-parent families that are less dysfunctional than a lot two-parent families."

Ummm... yes. He did mean to indicate that.

First, voluntary single-parent families — those in which the separation is voluntary, such as cases of divorce — are dysfunctional. The term "dysfunctional" (adj. not operating normally or properly, Oxford Dictionary) merely indicates that a family is not functioning in a proper manner. As a Christian, I would be compelled to say that any family voluntarily divided is not fully in compliance with God's plan for that family, and is as such dysfunctional.

Not to say that there is no making the best of unfortunate circumstances: a single mother whose husband abandoned her can easily strive to follow God in the management of her family and raising of her children: this I do not contest. However, without placing blame for the situation on her, I decline to sugar-coat the it and say that such a family is God's perfect will, and hence not dysfunctional. While she may bear no responsibility for the fact that her family is dysfunctional, it undeniably is. Stating that gravity has no bearing on life doesn't change the facts for a pilot in his final spin.

I don't think that terms should be used haphazardly or derogatorily — but calling a spade a heart wins no games. Admitting that a situation is less-than-ideal is entirely prerequisite to coping with — and eventually mending — it.

No, we should not belittle a single mother doing the best she can for her family, but neither should we canonize it as an alternative ideal.

Okay, there's that. Now let's gripe a while about the absolute inability of even those who should know better to grasp the simple concept that is the syllogism. Logical fallacy: some two-parent families are dysfunctional, therefore single-parent families are not dysfunctional as a result of their not having two parents.

Non sequitur. Need I explain?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Science Fairs and Ostriches

Science education in the United States is in dire straits. Talk to the most vehement apologists for the government educational system, and all but the stubbornest ostriches will admit it's one of their most intractable problems. Japan, of course, leads us by a large margin. What's even more depressing is that the Czech Republic, Russia, Cyprus, Australia, Iceland, and Slovenia (among many others, and in no particular order) are long strides ahead of us as well.

In fact, look at the international science education statistics1. Among the twenty-three countries studied in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, the United States finishes penultimate. In overall scoring (averaging our scores in Mathematics, Advanced Mathematics, Science, and Physics, we come in at a pitiful 451.5, leading only South Africa (352.5), a standard deviation below the international average, and a full two and a half standard deviations below the top contender (Netherlands, 559).

Anyone who says our government-sponsored educational system hasn't let our children down denies the overt truth.

All this to say that I've been put face-to-face with the utter abysmality of science "edumacation". Yes, I was a science fair judge. Twice, actually, at two middle schools in South Carolina.

It's not so much that nearly seventy percent of the students used projects given as examples and ideas in their science fair rulebooks their unmitigated lack of creativity is due more to television. It's that they've not been taught the basics of analytical thought that ought to be learnt beginning at the latest in second grade. The two most conspicuous lacks were control and repetition.

It's never enough to do something once. Anything can happen once. Observing an effect a single time isn't even evidence, much less data. The dictum that in repetition lies truth has apparently never sullied the doormats to these children's minds scores of projects built on an effect observed once.

Imprecations levied at brands of batteries because a single flashlight populated with one brand outlasted a single flashlight populated with the other, not a hint given of what might have happened had the procedure been repeated even once.

Makers of paper towels besmirched because a single wet paper towel of their manufacture held nineteen fewer pennies than a single wet paper towel of a competitor's make.

Physical constants stood on their heads in the face of a single demonstration that heavy objects fall faster than light objects.

So what's the big deal, you might ask? So the kids were too lazy to drop a ball twice, or send their specially-weighted pinewood derby car down the track a second time. Why is that such a condemnation on science education?

The problem is that, while of course some of the students were lazy, by and large they were not. They didn't neglect to repeat measurements and experiments out of indolence, but out of ignorance. No one told them that doing something once doesn't prove anything. Not that they need to understand the deep scientific reasons for it, but that there really aren't deep scientific reasons for it! This is basic critical thinking, which I believe is not only easily-graspable by, but critically-essential for children as young as six or seven. (Of course, if you want a nation of sycophantic automata, which one might in a cynical moment suggest is the intent . . .)

A concept a bit more difficult to grasp (as in, eight- or nine-year-old material, rather than six or seven) is control. These seventh-graders had no concept of the need to discern an effect of their experimental conditions from what naturally happens. (They had some understanding of controlling confounding variables, and many at least listed possible other causative factors, if not actually attempting to control them.)

However, I'll give an example: "Which Substance Melts Ice Faster". The experimental plan was to place three ice cubes in dishes on a countertop, sprinkling one with salt, one with sugar, and one with pepper, measuring the time it took for each to be reduced to liquid. The results showed something like a minute and a half for the salted ice, a bit over three minutes for the sugared ice, and around fourteen minutes for the peppered ice. Passing over the fact that there was only one trial performed for each substance, there was a conspicuous lack of a negative control. There was no bowl containing an unmolested ice cube.

Of course, knowing a bit of basic physical chemistry, one would expect the pepper (being essentially insoluble) to have no to minimal effect on melting time that is, for the hypothetical "plain old ice cube" to melt in about fourteen minutes, along with the peppered cube. In fact, this is so important, that without that control, they were unable to draw the most meaningful conclusion from their results.

Science instructors reading this, please take heed. Cumulus clouds are all well and good, but give your second-graders some credit! They are perfectly capable of understanding that if you wanted to measure how big two brands of cookies were, and you measured one of each a broken one of the "bigger" brand and a whole one of the "littler" brand, you would come to an obviously-incorrect conclusion.

Third-graders are eminently able to comprehend the difference between doing nothing and doing something, and that, say, salting a french fry doesn't make it golden brown, simply because all salted french fries are golden brown that it is necessary to look at unsalted fries as well before drawing a conclusion.

So, be my everlovin' guest. Here's a bucket of sand. Stick your head in it. Because that's the only way you'll be able to continue believing that nothing is rotten in the state of science education.

But if you prefer not to play the ostrich, then get out there and do something about it! Teach them about cumulus clouds tomorrow. Today, give them the tools for acquiring and analyzing information for themselves!


1
TIMSS Scores on Assessments of Mathematics and Science General Knowledge, Advanced Mathematics, and Physics
NationMathScienceAdv. MathPhysicsAvg.Std. Dev.
South Africa356349352.504.95
United States461480442423451.5024.53
Czech Republic466487469451468.2514.77
Italy476475474475.001.00
Cyprus446448518494476.5035.45
Hungary483471477.008.49
Austria518520436435477.2548.22
Lithuania469461516482.0029.72
Latvia488488.00n/a
Germany495497465522494.7523.33
Greece513486499.5019.09
Slovenia512517475523506.7521.64
France523487557466508.2540.13
Russia471481542545509.7539.20
Canada519532509485511.2519.87
Switzerland540523533488521.0023.08
Australia522527525518523.003.92
New Zealand522529525.504.95
Denmark547509522534528.0016.27
Iceland534549541.5010.61
Sweden552559512573549.0026.17
Norway528544581551.0027.18
Netherlands560558559.001.41
Avg.500.00500.14500.50500.75498.9720.18
Std. Dev.46.5847.2635.7145.3543.0413.30

Rotberg IC, Interpretation of International Test Score Comparisons, Science, 280:1030-1, 1998

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Boxes and Hinds

"Familiarity breeds . . .", well, it does, anyway, without my saying it. But why, particularly? I know, I know, I'm already being terribly unromantic by subjecting romance of all topics to discourse. But . . . eh.

Premise the first: "Romance is thrill." You're not going to argue with me on this one, are you?

Premise the second: "Love withstands boredom." Ahhh! Now you see where I'm going with this!

How do you get your thrills? I tend to desire "the thrill of the chase," and am in that point no different than at least seventy percent of the male population of this backwater blue-green planet. But to me, "the thrill of the chase" isn't simply a nifty phrase to describe a pleasant habit of skirt-chasing: it's more a philosophy, or failing that, a theme which can't help but arise from my philosophy.

You see, long, long ago, a little girl named Artemis saw five golden hinds grazing in Thessaly, and captured four of them to draw her chariot. The fifth escaped and remained free. While many attempted to capture her, none succeeded (except Heracles, of course, but he let her go). However, to die in pursuit of the Golden Hind could not have been dishonourable, methinks.

And one can almost imagine a hunter whose entire life had been devoted to the Hind tracking her and following her for months on end, only rarely catching a brief sight of her as she disappeared, miles ahead. One can feel his elation as at long last he comes upon her asleep in a glen, and even see her as he himself gazes upon her.

And one can feel the dismay as he realizes she is not the Hind, but merely a hind.

And one can well imagine the heavy heart and the renewed plans and schemes and the chase begun anew.

"You mean she's human?" I ask myself this time and time again, only the "she" changes.

Others strive for understanding, not knowing why. One may poke into nooks and drawers searching for little boxes: something like tiny jewelry-boxes, I imagine. And whenever she's found one, she'll take it, and put it on a little shelf in her bedchamber, apart from all the other boxes she's found and lined up haphazardly to one side.

And day or night, whenever it strikes her fancy, she'll take down that new little box, and work at it with all her cunning and quickness, trying to find some way to prise its lid from off it; sometimes more, and sometimes less carefully, she picks at its locks and hinges. And finally, one day the lid will be off, and so will be the fascination: perhaps because the box contains only a few dusty scraps of paper with quizzical scribblings covering them front and back, but more probably because the lid is off.

"Oh, now I've figured him out," I can imagine her dismissing it, as she starts looking about for the next object of her fortitude.

So does the chase dismay? Does the understanding not suffice? Therein lies the difference between romance and love: romance is the chase, the struggle, the laying awake at night sick of soul and mind. Love, however . . . love is finding the Golden Hind. Love is opening a box and finding within a stone that glistens, and even glows ever so slightly.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Society as a Construct

I've been contributing to Everything2 recently, and was inspired to contribute to the "Society" node. Here is the article as published in Everything2. It pretty much stands on its own as an exposition of my philosophy of society; so without further ado:


Society is a construct deriving from the necessity of groups of individuals to live in proximity to, depend on, and interact with each other. A society may define both social mores and social institutions, which take their root in the combination of individual moral values and individual activities: and as such, they are tantamount to implicit contracts that govern individuals as members of that society.

Society is used as a definer of "common good" (and by extension, often "higher good"). From a utilitarian standpoint, social mores and institutions which produce greater beneficial (subject, of course, to definition) impact for the greatest number of individuals within that society are considered superior to competing values. The social relativism (used here unperjoratively, simply to indicate adjudication based on social, rather than individual, effect) thus resulting often results in the concrete concept of the individual being demoted to near-abstraction and being supplanted by the abstraction that is society.

Unfortunately, this has been linked, especially in modern Western culture, to psychological and other problems in individuals. Common examples of the individual being placed beneath society are peer pressure (especially among adolescents) and material decadence (or "spending pressure", which has in one form or another been a prime target of American social reformers for much of the last century).

As a side note, peer pressure and conformity are some of the highest-priority concerns for adolescents. So much so, in fact, that ostracism from a group and non-conformity with that group can be severe causes of depression.

Suggestions for easing related social ills range from the minimal to the radical, and span the gamut of the individual-society gradient; and indeed, many of the key political debates of the present revolve around resolving the individual-society dichotomy. Currently the extremes (with reference to individualism/social relativism) lie at one end with the extreme liberals and conservatives of many Western governments — which advocate subjugating various aspects of individuality completely to society — and at the other with anarchists of various forms — which demand subjugating society entirely to individual whim. (See also Conservatism, Liberalism, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, Communism, Politics, and any other philosophy you can think of.)

And remember, even though:

This planet has, or had, a problem, which was this. Most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small, green pieces of paper, which is odd, because on the whole, it wasn't the small, green pieces of paper which were unhappy. — Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

. . . the only value small green pieces of paper have is in the context of a society that values them, where they can define and promote actions of individuals possessing them within that society. So at the root of it, solving problems regarding the distribution of small green pieces of paper will not happen until problems are solved with the underlying structure of society and the implicit contracts between individuals which make it up, and the rules of interaction between individuals within a society are improved to reflect that change.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Freedom of Commerce, Summer Style

Sure you did. Admit it. You had a lemonade stand when you were a kid, didn't you? Good for you. Not only was that one more nostalgic part of childhood, but you were exercising a fundamental freedom, unrestricted. But as Calvin says, "Another nostalgic part of childhood goes 'Pppbth'."

I'm sure you've heard several stories about the cops raiding such juvenile sole proprietorships, with results as varied as simple shutdowns to the parents being charged with sales tax evasion. I'm not going to dwell on such oversteppings, since as much has already been done, and I'll equate you with the Wicked Witch of the West if you think the government is in the right to react so to kids who actually display initiative.

That's right. That veiled reference was all the rant I'm going to put here. The reason I'm writing this is that yesterday I ran across some kids actually displaying initiative and running a lemonade cartel beside their driveway.

I was going too fast to stop when I saw it, so I turned around in a driveway a ways ahead and came back: as I pulled into their driveway, the kids (probably six and nine, but I'm bad with age-guessing) jumped to serve me.

"Do you want to buy some lemonade?" Nearly ecstatic.

"That I do!" I said, getting out of my truck and fumbling around for change. "How much is it?"

"Twenty-five cents a cup," he said proudly. I dropped fifty cents into their change bin ("And a quarter tip," I added, which the older of the two punctuated with a surprised thanks). I wish I'd had more cash on me: I'd have given them five bucks just because they weren't turning their brains into spaghetti with a TV or video game.

I take the proffered lemonade. "Thank you!" they say.

"Oh, thank you!" I reply. "You have a nice day!"

"You too, sir!"

Ahhh . . . of course! That explains why they have initiative. They've been raised right!


Cops Shut Down Little Girl's Lemonade Stand

NAPLES, June 18, 2003 A six-year-old girl was heartbroken when her small lemonade stand was put out of business because she didn't have a temporary business permit. A neighbor called the police and her stand was shut down.

"Gotta get ready for the sale," said Avigayil.

Even though she's only 6 years old, Avigayil prepares for another day at work.

"We like making money at our lemonade stand. We want it to stay cold so they can have cold lemonade on hot days," she said.

A young entrepreneur who does the cleaning, even the advertising and it is paying off.

"We are making lots of tips in our tip jar," said Avigayil.

But a few days ago, Avigayil and her friends were put out of business by a neighbor.

"We didn't have a permit so she called the cops," said Avigayil.

The police arrived and shut her down.

"We had to take down our lemonade stand," said Avigayil.

Abagail did not have a temporary business permit, which is technically a city violation.

"So we had to do something else to play," said Avigayil.

"I was kind of shocked because I didn't know we needed a permit for 6 year old girls to sell lemonade," said K.C. Shaw, Avigayil's mom.

According to the city, they have to act on a formal complaint.

"Normally we don't get involved in it but once we do get a formal request we must take action," said Al Hogrefe of the city of Naples.

So Avigayil's mom went to the city code enforcement office with wallet in hand, prepared to buy a permit.

"$35 every single time for a single use," said Shaw.

Not wanting to be sour, the city played Mr. Niceguy.

"No we did not charge her, no," said Hogrefe.

They did finally get the permit.

"Basically a blank check to have as many lemonade stands as we can stand," said Shaw.

So Abagail is back in business and learned laws can be tough, even for a six year old's lemonade stand.

Shaw said the police officers who shut down the stand felt terrible, but they had to do their job. One of the officers even bought a glass of lemonade from Avigayil.

NBC2 News Online (at Archive.org)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Is this how Youth and Radiance Leave Us?: Bart Parker

Years ago, in a set of Time-Life art-photography books, I ran across an intriguing photo-collage called "Is this how youth and radiance leave us?", by Bart Parker. While most of the images from those books have long since departed my memory, several have remained: chief among them, "Youth and Radiance".

It was a simple piece: just three shots of a styrofoam cup of coffe, a few brown droplets clinging to its side. All three shots from odd angles: angles at which you seldom see a coffee.

For years, all it was to me was a silly photo that somehow managed to lodge itself in my mind. But now, well, I can see a clear path away from youth and radiance in every opportunity to use a styrofoam cup. In every chance to imbibe instant coffee and microwave a TV dinner.

How do youth and radiance leave us? By convenience. Youth is inconvenient because of its unpredictability. And radiance well, radiance takes more work than I'd like to put forth sometimes.

I ran across a New York Times review (June 7, 1981) of a small surrealist show at Brookdale Community College's (Lincroft, New Jersey) Gallery 10. All it had to say was the cryptic, eighties-avant-garde (and might I call it "emperor's-new-clothes"):

For Mr. Parker, photography is an adjunct to thought and, interested in verbal "systems," he tells somewhat obscure stories through multiple images with words. For example, three shots of a cup of coffee are captioned, "Is this how youth and radiance leaves us?"

Surely they can see more than that? Why, if I were an art critic, I could see that tripe in seventeen collages before breakfast!

But still, the battle between convenience and radiance isn't a battle between cleanliness and squalour, nor is it a grand duel between Light and Darkness. It is simply the battle between doing and not doing.


See Bart Parker's gallery at bartparker.com

Friday, November 04, 2005

Necessary Irreverence

" . . . he felt as though the whole ball with all its hum and noise had become remote: the sounds of the string and brass instruments came from somewhere beyond the mountains and everything was hazy and vague, like a hastily daubed-in background in a painting. And only the fine features of the fair-haired girl, with all the finishing touches, emerged clearly from this sketchy background. Her oval face, her slender waist found only in girls for a very few months after leaving boarding school, her simple white dress that followed the lines of her slender young form, revealed the purity of her figure. She looked like a delicately-carved ivory toy, a single bright white object among the dull, blurred crowd.

" . . . Noticing an empty chair next to them, he sat down without further ado. At first the conversation wouldn't get started, but gradually it did, even gaining momentum."
— "Dead Souls," Nikolai Gogol

How in the world has it been so long? I've been rendered dumb by visions of loveliness in times past, but so much time has passed that such times seem but visions of visions. I can remember distinctly, though as through a mist, that odd muting of the ears, the disappearance of surroundings, and the sudden whipping around of the world to revolve around HER. The dry mouth, the inability to move or speak — for a moment only, always just for a slow, interminable moment — and the hot blush that comes of being in such a radiant presence are still familiar, exotic, longed-for feelings.

The impetuity that must needs come to stave off the unworthiness and groveling which so readily spring to the forefront — as nothing is more proper when in the presence of a goddess . . .  ah! However, an audacity driven by the need to absorb — and dare I think it, to capture — such beauty makes thoughts of proper reverence to divinity inconceivable. Driven by the knowledge that my instinctive obsequescence would serve only to remove her from me, I plunge foolishly and hopelessly on.

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