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And if so, do you have pictures to share? I dressed as a hobo; had an unfortunately damaged top hat which was perfect for such a costume. Managed a proper bindle too, with a red neckerchief with white polka dots. Sat on my front steps and handed out candy to trick-or-treaters. “What are you dressed […]

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During our annual family visits to Denver, I always find a way to make it to The Tattered Cover, a large bookstore downtown. I rediscovered it after many years away, and pleasantly realized that they offered discounted and used books amongst their full-price items.   I usually spend a few hours in the company of this wide […]

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http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/pope-francis-caring-for-the-poor-does-not-make-you-a-communist-9828856.html “Pope Francis has once again rejected claims that his concern for the poor and criticisms of capitalism make him a communist, by declaring that he is merely following the Gospel.” Preview Open

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Progressive Puritans Try to Ruin Halloween

 

Traditionally moral scolds have been characterized as creatures of the right, but today all the tsk-tsking arises from the fever swamps of progressive purity. The next victim of these pinched-face church(less) ladies is Halloween.

The College Fix (hat tip to John J. Miller) notes a series of advisories and admonishments being distributed to students around the country. They also reprint a letter issued by a Residence Life coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

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 The problems with any set of rules occur at the boundaries of those rules.  Gross infractions are easy to spot, but even the best of rules has gray areas.  You just cannot anticipate all of the ways that people will creatively re-interpret laws, or find valid (or pseudo-valid) exceptions to the rules. This chicken-excrement controversy […]

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Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo exploded mid-flight today, after its engine ignited, witnesses say. One fatality and one major injury has been confirmed by the California Highway Patrol.  The status of the pilots is not known. Source: http://www.cnet.com/news/virgin-galactic-spaceshiptwo-crashes-in-test-flight/ Preview Open

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H. P. Lovecraft & The Darkest Horror

 

LovecraftIt being Halloween week, we’ve had some fun discussing horror writing and film, from Edgar Allan Poe‘s horror of death to the theological horror of The Exorcist. I enjoy both genres immensely, but I’ve come to a late appreciation for H.P. Lovecraft (1890 -1936), who did as much to shape the genre in the 20th Century as Poe did in the 19th.

Lovecraft lived most of his life in Southern New England, with a short stint in New York City during his brief and profoundly unhappy marriage. Born into relative privilege of a 19th Century sort, he never really earned a living, getting by on his inheritance and the pittance his writing brought in. Introverted and unwilling to promote himself, he died in obscurity of stomach cancer in 1936, his work having never gained any attention outside of pulp magazines.

Like most horror writers, Lovecraft is extraordinarily uneven: many of his stories are incredibly derivative, some of them are outright silly, and there’s strain of racism throughout his work that would be more offensive if it weren’t so transparent, gratuitous, and dated (besides the regular derogatory comments about blacks, Lovecraft can never resist the opportunity to take a jab at the Portuguese). Moreover, Lovecraft’s characterizations are generally very weak — it’s unusual for a character from his stories to make much of an impression — and the number of named women in his work could likely be counted on a single hand.

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For days, I’ve been trying to remember the name or author of a painting I once saw in college. Can y’all solve the mystery?  The scene is a canyon of the Old West during a cattle drive. A storm has struck the herd. Rather than killing a particular steer, the lightning jumps between dozens of […]

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The Hidden Question

 

shutterstock_114560317There’s a question haunting campaign pros in the 2014 election. Both sides are worried about it, and neither side can answer it quite yet.

It’s simple enough: can the voter turnout tools and techniques developed and deployed with such success by Barack Obama’s team in 2008 and 2012 work for Democrats without the exceptional charisma, presence, media adoration, and generational and racial signifiers that Obama brought to the fight?

It bothers Republicans because, while they rightly believe the technology itself is apolitical, they’re worried. Building the systems to identify, understand, communicate with, and motivate targeted voters isn’t the exclusive partisan domain of the Democrats. The tech gap is closing fast, as Republicans and conservatives experiment with and (sometimes slowly) adopt the emerging best practices of analytics, data, targeting, and more refined messaging.

Seven Reasons Why Income Inequality is Not Killing the American Dream

 

030514inequality1Less income inequality is self-recommending, according to the left. Full stop. Reducing the income gap as much as possible — while still, of course, leaving some incentive for wealth creation — should be a top priority of government. Maybe the top priority. As President Obama said late last year: “The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American dream, our way of life and what we stand for around the globe.”

We know now, however, that mobility has not been decreasing. Economic research also suggests that income inequality — at least so far — is not a fundamental threat to the American way of life. The Manhattan Institute’s Scott Winship draws the following conclusions from his review of the literature:

1.) Across the developed world, countries with more inequality tend to have, if anything, higher living standards. The exception is that countries with higher income concentration tend to have poorer low-income populations.

The Rule of Culture vs. Fiat in Holidays, or, In Which I Don’t Get How My City Can Assign a Date for Trick-or-Treating

 

shutterstock_921171Does anybody else live in a city that “decides” when kids will go trick-or-treating…and it’s not on Halloween? We moved to Huntington, West Virginia seven years ago and this was the first place I’d ever even heard of such a thing. It rubs me the wrong way, because this is a cultural practice that’s evolved, independent of government, over many hundreds of years. It strikes me as a gross overstepping of authority for a city to assign a date on which the custom will be carried out by individual citizens, especially when that date isn’t when the culture says it should be.  It’s almost as if the city decreed that people will open their Christmas presents on December 23rd.

I’m not all that interested in justifications for why they’re choosing a given date, though I’ve heard rumors that it’s to avoid kids being out when drunk adults are driving back from their Halloween parties. I’m mostly wondering how a city thinks it can insert itself into this aspect of private life. And what is it that the city actually does in assigning the date? Do they pass a law? Surely not. Do they have some informal resolution of the city council encouraging people? More likely, but I’ve never heard the details.

This is so foreign a concept to me that I’m amazed the citizens all go along with this. If it were a recent innovation, there would have to be push-back, but I’m not hearing any. So I assume this was all fought out decades ago. Yet it’s the first place I’ve ever heard of it. My elder, teenaged daughter (who knows everything) tells me that the entire state does this, and that I should stop complaining. I have my doubts. But another city over the border, where I teach, does it too, and I wonder if it’s some regional thing.