URLs du Jour

2011-11-29

  • Incoming e-mail from the University Near Here announced:

    The following is being sent from UNH’s Inclusive Excellence and the Social Justice Educator Facilitators.

    Inclusive Excellence and the Social Justice Educator Facilitators. Weren't they the opening act for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the Casino in Hampton Beach back in the 70s? I'm pretty sure they were.

    But, as it turns out, it's also an Official University Thing, and they want our brains:

    We invite you to join us for this interactive training to explore “social justice” from personal and professional perspectives, and as related to your every day personal and professional practices. For more information, please visit the SJE website at: http://www.unh.edu/inclusive/social-justice-educator-training. If you are interested in participating, please complete your online registration form before the deadlines listed below.

    Want to know more? Specifically, would you like to know how many buzzwords of the academic diversity/social justice establishment can be jammed into a single short paragraph? Here you go:

    The Social Justice Educator Training (SJE) is a professional development opportunity for UNH faculty, staff and graduate students to further diversity awareness, knowledge and skill sets allowing for critical analysis of the services we provide, and of the relational dynamics we seek in a diverse institution. We will explore “social justice” via personal and institutional lenses to analyze: power and privilege, discrimination and prejudice, inclusion and equity through the multiple social identities of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, nationality, ethnicity, ability (physical and mental), religion, etc. This process will include open and honest discussions, readings, and interactive/experiential activities in a respectful environment. The eight-hour training which is divided into two days is facilitated in a small-group setting (maximum of 25).

    Although it's eight hours over two days, I bet it would seem to the participants as if it was going on much, much, longer than that.

    One last observation: the registration form is here, and the list of qualities you are invited to (optionally) provide about yourself is wondrous to behold:

    • Race
    • Ethnicity
    • Nationality
    • Sex
    • Gender
    • Sexual Orientation
    • Class
    • UNH Classification (Faculty, Staff, etc.)
    • Religion/Spirituality
    • Veteran Status
    • Do you have any disability you feel we should be aware of
    • Please feel free to provide a category we have not included and corresponding information that you are comfortable sharing

    Yes: Sex and Gender and Sexual Orientation. (If you have to ask, you probably don't have the proper prerequisites for the training, sorry.)

    And I also admire that final catchall: if our pigeonholes don't provide adequate opportunities for your self-identification, just make up your own!

  • Reason editor Matt Welch interviews Free State Project President Carla Gericke, who wants to keep New Hampshire "awesome".

    For liberty-lovers who don't currently live in the Granite State: come on up.

  • Here's one reason: According to Men's Health, Manchester NH is the second-happiest city in the US of A. (Number one is Honolulu, but who wants to be that happy?)

  • Good news about the Kansas Kerfuffle discussed here yesterday. Jacob Sullum reports that the schoolmarms that were demanding that Ms. Emma Sullivan apologize for her disrespectful anti-Governor Brownback tweet have changed their minds. And Governor Brownback himself has publicly apologized to Sullivan for his stupid staff's over-reaction.

  • Discussion continues on Newt's immigration stance. Thomas Sowell takes Newt to school for his plea to be "humane" about deporting illegals:

    Let’s go back to square one. The purpose of American immigration laws and policies is not to be either humane or inhumane to illegal immigrants. The purpose of immigration laws and policies is to serve the national interest of this country.

    Good point. But on this issue, I always think the last thing I read makes good points.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:41 PM EST

Reamde

[Amazon Link]

I've been a Neal Stephenson fanboy ever since I read Cryptonomicon years ago. And I had a great time plowing through this 1000-plus page book.

It's somewhat of a change of pace for Stephenson: it's set in the (more or less) real world, in the (more or less) present day. I've seen an interview where he recalls reading Alistair MacLean thrillers in his youth (just as I did) and that Reamde is his instantiation of that genre. Good job!

The book opens in the most mundane of settings: the Forthrast family reunion, somewhere in northwestern Iowa. (Hey! I've been to family reunions in Iowa!) One of the attendees is Richard, who's the CEO of a computer game company: their primary product, T'Rain, is a wildly-popular virtual world full of myths, gods, commerce, and battle. Also at the reunion is Zula, a young African woman adopted out of a Sudanese refugee camp years back by Richard's sister and brother-in-law. She has her boyfriend Peter in tow, a computer security guy.

Things develop rapidly from there: Peter turns out to dabble in illegality, and this gets him involved with one shady guy. Who is (in turn) in league with some very shady, and violence-prone, Russian mobsters. An illicit deal is thwarted when Peter's sale of sensitive information is accidentally encrypted and made inaccessible by the REAMDE computer virus, held for ransom by the China-based virus-writing hackers. The money is to be repaid, coincidentally, though the commerce system on T'Rain.

But the Russians are not meek ransom-paying types: Zula and Peter are abducted, and flown off to Xiamen, China, to assist in tracking down and bringing the hackers to justice, or at least the Russian gangster version thereof. This culminates in utter disaster, death, explosions, and shifting alliances. But more colorful characters are introduced: an honorable and resourceful Russian "security consultant"; a large Hungarian computer expert; a beautiful spy working for MI6; an enterprising Chinese tourist guide, who bonds with Zula.

And that's just the beginning.

The book is a page turner (or, on the Kindle, a button-pusher) with plenty of action throughout. But I didn't want to zip through it too fast, because Stephenson's prose is really something one wants to savor, full of sharp observations and wit.

What I especially liked: The primary bad guys are murderous Islamic terrorists, with zero redeeming qualities. Were Stephenson interested in writing a more Politically Correct work, it might be revealed at some point that the bad guys were actually controlled by shadowy capitalist moguls, or by our very own government. Nope. In fact, the head good guy, Richard, is a shadowy capitalist mogul (albeit with a pot-smuggling past). Other characters on the side of the angels include heavily-armed right-wing survivalists.

Caveats: I read it on my Kindle, and it had enough oddities in punctuation to make me wonder if even the corrected edition was an accurate representation of the text. The glitches, if they were actual glitches, didn't detract much from the reading experience, however.

What I really wanted was maps, especially of the area where the grand finale takes place. Preferably topographic. There's a lot of traipsing around the countryside by multiple groups; it's kind of tough to keep track of their various positions and progress with only the text descriptions to go by. (Did the printed version have maps? I'll have to check, if I ever set foot in a bookstore again.)


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:40 PM EST

Even the Rain

[3.0 stars] Even the Rain (2010) on IMDb

[Amazon Link]

Netflix assured me I would like this movie, even though there were plenty of warning flags. For starters, the Netflix synopsis:

In this provocative film-within-a-film, director Sebastián (Gael García Bernal) heads to Cochabamba, Bolivia, to shoot a film about Christopher Columbus's trespasses in the New World, only to find the locals protesting present-day exploitation of the poor. Sebastián is sympathetic to the cause, but realities collide when lead actor Daniel (Juan Carlos Aduviri), cast as a rebel against the Spanish, becomes a key figure in the current demonstrations.

Sounds like tedious left-wing propaganda, doesn't it?

More: Googling the screenwiter, Paul Laverty, sends up some more red flags: he pals around with Michael Moore; he's an enthusiastic backer of anti-Israel boycotts. In short, kind of a jerk.

And finally, when the movie starts, up on the screen is (in Spanish): "Dedicated to the memory of Howard Zinn" Arrrgh. Kill me now.

But guess what? It turned out to be OK, under what I think of as the Sean Penn rule: even leftist jerks can make good movies. There's a decent plot with fully-realized characters.

And I enjoyed a neat twist: the movie-in-a-movie's producer, Costa, starts out as a no-nonsense, heartless, hardhead who wants to get the movie made without getting involved in the native troubles; the director Sebastián, in comparison, is a softie. But their attitudes gradually reverse, and by the end of the flick, Costa's become fully enmeshed, risking his life to rescue a native child, while craven Sebastián sits on the sidelines.


Last Modified 2012-09-24 3:34 PM EST