Sunday, November 28, 2004

lofts in the 'burgh

Originally uploaded by recyclingfan.

Here is a story about downtown residential housing in Pittsburgh, within the Golden Triangle.

This is something Mayor Murphy has opposed in the past. This should really help stabilize the downtown area. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like there will be affordable housing for the working poor - just yuppie housing. All those custodial workers have to live somewhere!


Originally uploaded by recyclingfan.
This film isn't political, and there is no sex or violence in it. Nonetheless, it is a real delight to watch (maybe just once) and it captures the "Christmas" spirit.

My son and daughter in law helped me put up my Xmas tree, and I actually decorated a tree outside with lights, so I am contributing in my small way to the christmas spirit (with a small "c")

I still prefer Ramadan : fast and deny yourself stuff for a month, flaggelation, cut yourself on the forehead with sharp knives etc. Now THAT'S a religious ritual! No eggnog, carols, grandma's fruitcake - we're talking hard core butt-kicking emotional rituals.

Motorcycle Diaries

Originally uploaded by recyclingfan.
Great movie about young Che Guevara before his involvement with the Cuban revolution. It shows Che as a very impressionistic young man, concerned about the poor and disenfranchised peasants in South America. He dreams of uniting all native South Americans, regardless of national boundaries. He is compassionate, handsome, daring, and likeable. He came from a privileged family. This was a film with great cinemaphotography, humor, adventure and drama. I give it a definite thumbs up. BTW, recent released CIA records reveal that Bolivian Rangers, trained by US Army and CIA, captured Che after a series of running battles with his small group of men. The Bolivians decided to execute him, rather than put him on trial. The US's CIA wanted to keep him alive so they could interogate him in Panama. There seemed not to be a place for him in the Cuban communist movement after the revolution. He was more of a Maoist than a Soviet Leninist/Stalinist. Turns out the Soviet Union advised Castro to cut him loose.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Presidential Election results - county by population

Originally uploaded by recyclingfan.
A previous blog on my site suggests there are "two countries" seen in the election results, "The United States of Canada" and "Jesusland." That is just a joke. Here you see the electin results by county, controlled for population. As you can see, democrats and republicans are distributed across the country. Democratic strenth is in cities, throughout all regions. Here is the link for more election maps.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Santity of Marriage

Originally uploaded by recyclingfan.
I support Gay marriage: love is what life is all about, and if two people love each other and want to marry, I think that is a beautiful thing. I am so sick of the self righteous argument that evangelical Christians are making against gay marriage. If marriage is so sacred, then prove by not divorcing! Talk about he who is without sin casting the first stone! Divorce rates among "born again" Christians are high, and after the divorce, one or both the the ex-spouses leave their church. Read the following research I found on the net:

Divorce rates among Christian groups:
The slogan: "The family that prays together, stays together" is well known. There has been much anecdotal evidence that has led to "unsubstantiated claims that the divorce rate for Christians who attended church regularly, pray together or who meet other conditions is only 1 or 2 percent". 8 [Emphasis ours]. Dr. Tom Ellis, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention's Council on the Family said that for "...born-again Christian couples who the church after having received premarital counseling...and attend church regularly and pray daily together..." experience only 1 divorce out of nearly 39,000 marriages -- or 0.00256 percent. 9

A recent study by the Barna Research Group throws extreme doubt on these estimates. Barna released the results of their poll about divorce on 1999-DEC-21. 1 They had interviewed 3,854 adults from the 48 contiguous states. The sampling error is within 2 percentage points. The survey found:

11% of the adult population is currently divorced.
25% of adults have had at least one divorce during their lifetime.
Divorce rates among conservative Christians were much higher than for other faith groups, and for Atheists and Agnostics.

George Barna, president and founder of Barna Research Group, commented: "While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that when those individuals experience a divorce many of them feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing. But the research also raises questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families. The ultimate responsibility for a marriage belongs to the husband and wife, but the high incidence of divorce within the Christian community challenges the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriages."

According to the Dallas Morning News, a Dallas TX newspaper, the national study "raised eyebrows, sowed confusion, [and] even brought on a little holy anger." This caused George Barna to write a letter to his supporters, saying that he is standing by his data, even though it is upsetting. He said that "We rarely find substantial differences" between the moral behavior of Christians and non-Christians. Barna Project Director Meg Flammang said: "We would love to be able to report that Christians are living very distinct lives and impacting the community, but ... in the area of divorce rates they continue to be the same." Both statements seem to be projecting the belief that conservative Christians, liberal Christians have the same divorce rate. This disagrees with their own data.

The survey has come under some criticism:

David Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University has said that the survey doesn't make sense. He based this belief on his assessment that Christians follow biblical models of the family, making a bond that "the secular world doesn't have...It just stands to reason that the bond of religion is protective of marriage, and I believe it is."
Tom Ellis of the Southern Baptist Convention suggests that the Barna poll is inaccurate because the people contacted may have called themselves born-again Christians, without having previously made a real commitment to God. He said: "We believe that there is something more to being a Christian...Just saying you are Christian is not going to guarantee that your marriage is going to stay together." 9
Some researchers have suggested that religion may have little or no effect on divorce rates. The apparently higher rate among born-again Christians, and lower rate among Atheists and Agnostics may be due to the influence of financial and/or educational factors.

One reason for the discrepancy of beliefs about divorce rates among born-again Christians may be that their churches are unaware of the true number of divorcing couples in their midst.

Many couples would find it difficult to continue attending services in the same congregation after their marital separation; meeting at church would be awkward. So, they drop out.
Many probably find that the climate in their church is very negative towards divorcing couples. So, they move to other congregations that are either more accepting of divorce, or are unaware of their marital status.

Variation in divorce rates among Christian faith groups:
Denomination (in order of decreasing divorce rate) % who have been divorced
Non-denominational (small groups; independents) 34%
Baptists 29%
Mainline Protestants 25%
Mormons 24%
Catholics 21%
Lutherans 21%

Barna's results verified findings of earlier polls: that conservative Protestant Christians, on average, have the highest divorce rate, while mainline Christians have a much lower rate. They found some new information as well: that atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rate of all. George Barna commented that the results raise "questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families." The data challenge "the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriage."

Donald Hughes, author of The Divorce Reality, said: "In the churches, people have a superstitious view that Christianity will keep them from divorce, but they are subject to the same problems as everyone else, and they include a lack of relationship skills. ...Just being born again is not a rabbit's foot." Hughes claim that 90% of divorces among born-again couples occur after they have been "saved."

Friday, November 19, 2004

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's recent activities

My American Government Honors class is reading HST's Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie, a HST rant about the 1992 Presidential election. My students wanted to know what HST is doing regarding the 2004 race. Turns out, he is a columnist for ESPN, analyzing NFL football and politics, all at the same time. His columns are good.

He is also writing for the Rolling Stone and the link gives you a recent article about the 2004 Presidential election.

New countries?

New countries?
Originally uploaded by recyclingfan.
With the exception of Indiana and Ohio, Bush basically won the old Confederacy (northwest territories weren't states during Civil War times). I think all the Kerry states would feel more at home as part of Canada, with the exception of Pennsylvania - it went for Kerry, but only because of Philly and Pittsburgh. In fact, if you carve out Philly and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is actually Alabama with snow (think about it). I no longer want to go to church, because church has become "Bush Country."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

"Dr." Hunter S. Thompson and his pet

Originally uploaded by recyclingfan.
HST is always threatening to have someone torn apart by wolverines, so here is a pic of him and a pet wolverine. Is this a real picture? Who knows!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Originally uploaded by recyclingfan.
Donnie Darko is waiting for his final time travel - he understands love, free will, and eternity.

Donnie Darko: Director's Cut

So I was doing laundry and watching HBO, and this goofy teen movie comes on about this troubled teenager who is hallucinating and seeing a giant rabbit, and this kid believes in time travel. I thought, sounds stupid, another teen movie. But I watched it as I was sorting, ironing. then suddenly the movie got really twisted - it looked like the world was ending! His hallucinations proved to be real! And then he travelled through time and the movie ended and I thought: WHAT DID I JUST SEE??? Couple years later I see that Donnie Darko has been released again (original date 2001) and this Director's Cut version is playing at the Oaks Theater in Oakmont Pennsylvania (across the Allegheny from me: really cute town). The Oaks is an art deco theater, lovingly preserved. This time I went prepared for a real cult classic. I saw it again and was still confused about the meaning of the movie. I checked out some message boards. I also purchased the Donnie Darko book, and it contains the complete Roberta Sparrow "The Philosophy of Time Travel." Then I saw the movie yet again (third time). I finally got it - a movie about love, sacrifice, free will - wow! I saw it twice more for a total of five times. I will be showing it in my political film class, because it is set behind the backdrop of the Dukakis/Bush Presidential race. You got to see this film!

President James Buchanan's House

Front of President Buchanan's house, "The Wheatlands." Used to be a working farm outside of Lancaster. Today it is in city limits. Very well preserved. Candle light tours during winter holiday season. In the carriage house there is the Japanese vase that he received when he established diplomatic relations with Japan (1859?) and of course his carriage (he would have his driver take him to church in Lancaster). He raised his neices and nephews in this house.


Originally uploaded by recyclingfan.
Old friends greet each other with much warmth. Of course, friendships have their ups and downs, and Donald's one time ally is now in a prison cell. "Sometimes you eat the bar, and, well, sometimes the bar eats you." The Cowboy, from Big Lebowski.

Better than Sex: Hunter S. Thompson and William Faulkner

I am using "Dr." Hunter S. Thompson's book, Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie, in my honors American Government class. The students really enjoy it. HST makes references to many political figures, and literary figures: we look them up on the internet. We have just learned bout William Faulkner, checked out his web site, looked at pictures of his home. HST mentioned Faulkner's comment about refusing the invitation to John F. Kennedy's inauguration: "Just too far to go and I hate crowds," was his reply. Faulkner's web site.

Monday, November 15, 2004


One of the best documentaris I've seen recently is The Control Room. It's about Aljazeera news, and how difficult it is to develop an Arab global news network that can complete with CNN and other networks. It is a very insightful film, about how Arab countries are skeptical about Aljazeera because they are not very familiar with freedom of the press. Also skeptical are western news networks, thinking that Aljazeera will put a "spin" on the news that will be one sided. Turns out, Sec of Defense Rumsfeld turns out to be the only one sided news source in the documentary. A US Marine Corp information officer discusses the role of news networks with producers from Aljazeera, and the result is really fascinating - the marine the the Aljazeera producers learn alot from each other, and agree on many points. The best part is when the interviewers ask an Aljazeera producer how to bring peace to the Middle East: "easy," he says, "just issue everyone a US Passport." Really funny, but so true. Check out Aljazeera for news

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Postmen in the Mountains

Pittsburgh has some independent theaters that show great films all week long. Check out Pittsburgh Filmmakers. This week and next is the Three Rivers Film
Festival. I saw a Russian film, Vodka Lemon, about an Amenian village in Kurdistan - villagers trying to live amidst poverty, hopelessness. The film gave great scenes of vast mountains, snow, poverty. It ended with a slight message of hope.

The best film so far has been Postmen in the Mountains. It is about a letter carrier who has spent 30 yrs delivering mail in the mountains of China. He has been home only every 3 months so he and his son don't have a close relationship. He is retiring, and his son is becoming the new letter carrier. The father accompanies the son on the first trip - about 70 miles over 3 days through treacherous mountain paths - and the two bond. The son learns about his father's sense of values, and about the love the mountain villagers have for him. It is a delightful film, ultimately about the gift of love. What a movie! The cinematograhy was amazing - I could almost smell the mountain streams, the lush forests.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Life of Pi

"I have a story that will make you believe in God." And with that, Yann Martel recounts the survival of Pi Patel after his ship sinks in the Pacific. Pi finds himself alone in a life boat with some zoo animals that survived the sinking: a hyena, an injured zebra, an orangutan and a 450 pound Bengal tiger. Finally, it's just Pi and the tiger, and somehow they survive for 173 days at sea. Of course I am a big novel reader, that is clear from my profile. But this book was truly amazing: I really liked Pi , the character, after only a few pages. What a delightful young man. His adventures on the life boat are truly amazing. Did this book make me believe in God? I think Pi confirmed my belief in God. This is such a beautiful book. I anticipate that every student will somehow be required to read this book - and they will love it. (It's in paperback!)

Monday, November 08, 2004

election update

I have been working on the Kerry race since his last Senate race in 2002. I sent him a modest contribution because I wanted to get on his mailing list. In return he sent me a Kerry for President bumper sticker that has been on my car for the last two years. I just tore it off: time to get with life, find another politician to support. What really annoys me is that the evangelical churches had voter registration drives clearly linked to GWB, and that preachers used the pulpit to tell parishoners how to vote. I think the tax exempt status of these churches should be eliminated - if these preachers are going to campaign, then their church should pay taxes. Of course, who will investigate this? The Justice Dept under John Ashcroft? Remember him singing his song, "Let the Eagle Fly," ?

Carl Rove said the typical democrat has a PhD, and has values from the 60's and 70's - Hey! Getting kinda personal there, Carl.

Daily Mirror (England) put it best in their headline: "How can 59 Million Americans be so Dumb?" They are not dumb, they just live in rural areas, go to church and listen to the crazy stuff their preachers tell them, live isolated lives (if you limit yourself to the network news and prime time TV shows, then you are isolated), listen to Fox TV, and they were scared into submission by GWB.

Of course, we all hope Bush does something for his "legacy," like making Rudy Guiliani Chief Justice (great choice), or making William Weld Attorney General, but I think he won't.

As a college professor I have figured out that with my sabbatical and exchange professorships available to me, I could potentially be out of this country for 36 months of the next four years, thus missing 3/4 of the Bush second term Presidency.

"My advice is to start drinking heavily," said Bluto Blutarsky in Animal House.