Contact me

These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Monday, September 28, 2009

DCL Book Chat

The staff of the Douglas County Libraries has brought up a book chat, reading blog. It's good -- I put two of the briefly reviewed titles on hold. Click the entry title to see it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Wine on Fedora 11

I'm a Linux user. Right now, I'm using Fedora 11 from home. I like it, a lot. But one thing I've had trouble with is accessing webconferencing sites. So I tried an experiment tonight.

1. I installed the Windows emulator (well, Windows compatibility layer) for Fedora. Easy: yum install wine

This puts wine under the Applications menu.

2. I found Firefox for Windows, downloaded the installer, and from a command line went to my download directory and typed:
wine Firefox[tab] which expanded the file name and installed Firefox. Now it appears under Applications>Wine>Programs....Firefox

3. I went to the Adobe Connect site and managed to install Flash and another plug in, just as any Windows user would.

4. I went to the "test" page: https://admin.acrobat.com/common/help/en/support/meeting_test.htm and it failed at the Acrobat Connect Add-in Test.

I just can't install it (and yes, I clicked on Install Add-in). It fails. Don't know why.

Anybody out there tried this before? And succeeded?

haiku from US 24

snow faintly purple
on pine covered ridge
this grey morning


two big boulders
slathered with moss
frogs mating


on telephone wire
and almost too small to see
the grass-blonde bird sings


ant crawling up hill
or man driving up mountain
the immensity!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kseniya Simonova's Amazing Sand Drawing

I'm a fan of animation, and this art form is live animation. The woman performing won Ukraine's version of "America's Got Talent" sand painting her interpretation of Germany's occupation of Ukraine in WWII. On the one hand it freshens the pain of a terrible tragedy, and so perhaps nurtures the seeds of another. But there is also great beauty.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A shattered Republican party?

Click on the entry title for a link to read an excerpt from Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, by investigative reporter Max Blumenthal.

Blumenthal refers to a couple of writers I read deeply as a young man, and whose themes continue to resonate for me: Eric Hoffer ("The True Believer"), and Erich Fromm ("Escape from Freedom").

I was for 15 years or so a registered and active Republican, although I have never voted a straight ticket in my life. Individual competence, intelligence, and integrity are of more significance to me than party ideology.

Eventually, I left the party, an ephiphany I wrote about here.

These days, virtually all the moderates have abandoned positions of party leadership, disgusted by the rise of rhetoric and the decline of common sense. The folks who are left are "conservative's conservatives." Now, I hear from multiple sources that they are seeking to seize control of the school board -- a non-partisan race. In the process, they have also made political threats against members of their own party who aren't right wing enough.

So I combine this article with local events, and I wonder: how and when does a people reclaim their political structure from authoritarian stridency? And who, exactly? After all, I myself withdrew.

--

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Multinational joke

My daughter told me this one. She heard it in France.

Last month, a worldwide opinion survey was conducted by the United Nations. The only question asked was: “Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?”

The survey was a huge failure, because …

In South America, they didn’t know what “please” meant.
In Eastern Europe, they didn’t know what “honest” meant.
In China, they didn’t know what “opinion” meant.
In the Middle East, they didn’t know what “solution” meant.
In Africa, they didn’t know what “food” meant.
In Western Europe, they didn’t know what “shortage” meant.

And in the USA they didn’t know what “the rest of the world” meant.

Monday, September 7, 2009

District 9 - movie review with spoiler

I knew we were in trouble when all the previews were horror films. But when "District 9" started, the tone was very different, like a documentary. For a while. The premise of the film was on the one hand intriguing: some 2 million plus aliens are stranded in Johannesburg, South Africa. After 20 years, the "camp" where they were rounded up has devolved into a slum. As a result of xenophobia and fear, the aliens, called "prawns" by the natives, are about to be forcibly relocated to a camp farther from town.

On the other hand, let's just stop a minute to think about that. After traversing vast interstellar distances, the command module of the mothership just fell out, leaving the mothership moribund (but hanging effortlessly in the sky over Jotown) and it took 20 years to find and refuel it? As premises go, it's a little lame. But hey, I'm watching a movie about aliens, so suspending disbelief is certainly an option.

It's hard not to cringe at the all-too-accurate portrayal of the worst of human behavior. The film was itself modeled on "district 6" in the days of apartheid, a holding area for blacks which was then declared a "whites only" area. Moreover, "District 9" shows the arrogance of military-backed abrogation of civil rights, medical experimentation, the gleeful slaughter of baby aliens, and the trade of food for weapons.

But "District 9" also features a dual transformation: a psychological change in the petty bureaucrat charged with implementing the relocation, triggered by a physiological change in which he literally starts to identify with the aliens. And we begin to get a different view of the aliens, whose language, technology, and culture are clearly complex.

Unanswered: this species seems to put a lot of attention on weaponry. There's a suggestion that they have a beehive-like social organization: a leader class, and drones. But do we know anything else about their social structures? No. Why did they come in the first place? Unknown. How was their language come to be understood, and by whom? Unknown. How often does the command module fall out of the ship upon docking? Unknown.

But after all the pyrotechnics of exploding bodies, ripped off heads, handheld cameras all jittery in the slums, etc., you find yourself eager for a little peace and quiet.

The end is a classic science fiction twist: you become your enemy. The possibility for love and redemption is made clear. So all in all, a fascinating movie -- but at least two members of my family watched a lot of it with their eyes closed.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Classic Kung Fu Movies blog

OK, here's the blog that matters. Click on the entry. When I lived in Illinois, I watched Kung Fu Theater. Outrageous costumes, plots as outrageous as Bollywood, but instead of item numbers, you get lavish fight choreography. My salute to this fine contribution to culture.

Roller derby librarian

Reference librarian by day. "MegaBeth" roller derby scrapper by night. Click on the entry to watch the CNN video. I love these stories of librarians who shake up cultural images of them.