Tuesday, September 04, 2018

3D or not 3D, that is not rocket science

I saw an ad recently for "3D print T-shirt" and I thought "They can create T-shirts with 3D printers now? How comfortable would a plastic T-shirt be? Have they figured out a way to print with cotton fibers?" I went to the page the ad promoted and saw that by "3D print" they meant that the picture of the dog's head printed on the shirt is so clear that it looks like it's projecting outward from the shirt. Um, that's not 3D. I know that if I suggested to them that what they meant was "tromp l'oeil," they would have no clue what that was. What they could call it is "dimensional illusion" or "faux dimensional." That's not too hard to understand. And it wouldn't be misleading like "3D print."

Out of curiosity, I searched for ""3d t-shirt"" and got 3,900,000 results. Wait. What? 3.9 million?? I wonder how many of those results refer to an actual 3D T-shirt. Probably close to none. A 3D T-shirt would be one that requires 3D glasses to see the image printed on it appearing to project outward from the shirt. I suppose you could say that "3D T-shirt" means a shirt printed with images of digital 3D models like what they use for computer animation. So, any of the 3.9 million shirts that have images of characters from computer-animated productions could probably be referred to as a "3D T-shirt" or a "3D print T-shirt." But an enhanced HD photo of a dog's head looking at the camera can't. That's a dimensional-illusion T-shirt. I noticed a T-shirt on another page that had the caption "3D cross." The image printed on the T-shirt was a 2D line drawing representing a 3D object from an oblique angle. Nope. Sorry. It's still 2D, even though all the appropriate lines converge at a single vanishing point. You could call it "Perspective cross." But the 3D is only suggested by the perspective. The image on the shirt remains 2D.

Out of curiosity, I searched for ""not 3d" "3d t-shirt"" and got 2,630 results. Mostly the results on the first two pages refer to a T-shirt with the text "3D or not 3D." I didn't look very long, but I did find, on page 3, one person commenting to a T-shirt designer who used a 3D printer to print a design onto a T-shirt: "You ARE NOT 3d printing a 2d design. you are JUST PRINTING." So, then, yeah, okay, if the T-shirt designer had printed a 3D object onto a T-shirt, that would be, more or less, a 3D-printed T-shirt. But none of the shirts I found on the different retail sites I visited had objects projecting from them. They just had 2D images characterized by chiaroscuro shading. Nope. Sorry. Still 2D.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Application to an exclusive club

My letter to William Johnson, Managing Editor of Lambda Literary, requesting a review of my novel Secreta Corporis:

Dear Mr. Johnson:

I know that a novel that was self-published in 2013 has no chance at all of being reviewed now in the Lambda Literary Review. That is, if you go by-the-book. If you follow established procedure. But if you’ll look at the merits of the book itself and at what the author attempted to do, you may find that the book deserves more than just a perfunctory “Nope. Sorry. Can’t help you. We prefer to receive materials from an established publishing house 3 to 4 months in advance of publication date. Sorry.”

The story initially came about when I merged the Knights Templar referenced in The Da Vinci Code with the male archetypes examined in Brokeback Mountain. While working on the story, I began developing an idea for another novel involving controversial ancient artifacts being unearthed in modern-day Jerusalem. I thought it might be interesting to combine the two stories and move between ancient, medieval and modern-day timeframes. The resulting novel was an unwieldy 169k words, and so I divided it into two novels, the other one being a sequel to this one titled The Talpiot Find, eventually following that up with a sequel titled Ontogenesis. I queried The Talpiot Find for about a year but kept getting “Not for me” responses from literary agents. Querying Secreta Corporis was equally unsuccessful, and so I decided to self-publish both.

I believe the controversial aspect of the ancient artifacts made the books untouchable for the agents. While reading the book The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein, I encountered for the first time the theory that the book, or scroll, mentioned in II Kings 22:8-13, which was found during Temple repairs, may actually have been a forged document created by the priests and scribes but was presented to the people as the writings of Moses from six centuries earlier. The artifacts I created in the novels represent the rough draft of this scroll on clay tablets that had somehow ended up at the potter’s rather than being returned, unfired, to the clay pile. When the fired tablets were discovered by the scribes, they were immediately discarded in a trash pit, but one tablet was found by a Templar in the 12th century, and that tablet led to the finding of the rest of the tablets in the 21st century. The implications of Finkelstein’s forgery theory are profound: if New Testament writers weren’t aware that the compilation of the Torah had begun with a forged document, serious doubt is cast on their claims of inspiration, which in turn casts doubt on any of the modern religions which hold the writings of Moses and the Apostles to be God-given.

Why would I choose such an unpopular topic for my novels? Modern-day Israel bases its claim to the land on covenants God made with Abraham and Moses giving the land to the Jewish people in perpetuity. To reclaim the land in the 20th century, Israelis forced Palestinians out of their homes and illegally assumed ownership of those properties. Entire towns were evacuated and taken over by Israelis. The anger in the Muslim world caused by the unwavering support of the US for Israel’s claim to the land finally erupted on 9/11 and, to date, everyone in the West remains at risk for an inattentive TSA agent allowing someone to smuggle explosives onto a plane. If it came to be known that the covenants with Abraham and Moses very likely had been fabricated by the priests and scribes themselves during the reign of King Josiah, Israel could no longer claim ownership of the land in perpetuity. Israelis currently claim a “birthright” to the land, but their possession of the land came to an end in AD 136 with the Bar Kokhba revolt and 18 centuries have passed with the land not being an independent nation governed by the Jewish people. Any statute of limitations will have run after 18 centuries. With the final ousting of the Crusaders from the Holy Land at the Battle of La Forbie in 1244, the land came under Muslim control for the 7 centuries prior to Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948. Because the land had been under Muslim control for those 7 centuries, and not under Jewish control for 18 centuries, the “birthright” to the land actually belongs to the Palestinians. If that were understood and accepted by people in the US, the threat of violence perpetrated by radical Muslims would be reduced. If Israel were forced to pay for the properties they have forcibly taken since 1948, the conflict in the Middle East could be resolved.

You can see that what the author attempted to do deserves more than just a perfunctory “Nope. Sorry.” In addition to informing the reader of the dangers faced by gay people in past centuries, I wanted to help make things better by examining the current Mideast conflict, from the perspective of three widely spaced points in time, to try to find some way to untangle it. But the way I’ve found, recognizing that the recovered scroll was very likely a forgery, is distasteful to many readers and literary agents. Still, when one realizes that, after the finding of the scroll, the authority of the priests increased so much that the king was then required to seek their approval, one has to acknowledge that Finkelstein’s forgery theory sounds very plausible.

The five novels I’ve self-published can be seen at https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B002ES921O. (The sixth book, Life Doesn’t Always, is an early version of Tinselfish and is out of print but Amazon’s policy is to continue displaying out-of-print books.) More information about Secreta Corporis and The Talpiot Find can be found on web pages I created for them at http://www.carpecranium.com/secreta/ and http://www.carpecranium.com/thetalpiotfind/. I’m currently working on a sixth novel which examines the political polarity in the US, using the metaphor of theme-park design; I’ve recently begun chapter 14.

All things considered, am I the type of gay author that Lambda Literary wants to tell “Sorry. We don’t review self-published books”? With the scope of my writing and with my style of writing, which can be further examined in the online book samples, aren’t I actually an author who should be allowed into the club of gay authors whom Lambda Literary recognizes? I know there are standard channels for access to that club, but at 62 my number of hoop-jumping years is starting to become limited. I feel that the extent of the research I’ve conducted for each of my novels, the endless editing and proofreading I’ve performed on them, and the volume of information about the art of writing I’ve gleaned from reading authors like John Updike and Umberto Eco, all qualify Secreta Corporis for your consideration.

I was fortunate enough to obtain a short review of my book from a gay author of the stature of Michael Nava, author of the Henry Rios novels. He wrote:
Secreta Corporis is, in the tradition of The Name of the Rose, a marvelously erudite novel that brings the past to life in all its complexity while engaging the reader’s sympathy in the love story of Rolant and Audric, Knights Templar, as they travel in and around the Holy Land at the end of the 12th century. Garvey’s book immerses the reader in Rolant and Audric’s world while never losing sight of the deep bond between them that is the heart of the story. This is not the cartoon version of the past readers get in so many historical novels but a rich and detailed landscape in which the reader can happily lose him- or herself. I highly recommend it.

Please consider including a review of Secreta Corporis in the Lambda Literary Review.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Yo Wikipedia, fix your website!

As a graphic designer, I've been wondering for quite a while about the excessive line length and inadequate margin width of the Wikipedia article template. As desktop monitors have increased in physical size, the line length of the Wikipedia article has increased with it, and I'm surprised that this issue hasn't been addressed long before this.

Just as an example, my desktop monitor display screen is 23 1/2" wide and the resolution is set to the recommended 1600x900 pixels. When I maximize the Google Chrome window on my screen, the line length of, for example, the article on Pyeongchang County is 19 7/8", measured on the first text line of the subsection Train in the section Transportation. (With no photos or indentation at that location on the page, at least as my monitor displays it, the line can extend all the way to the left and right margins.) At 19 7/8", the line can't be read without my turning my head. Because I usually find that a maximized browser window produces web pages that are too big, I generally keep the browser window at about 18" wide. Even so, that results in a length of 14 3/4" for the same line in the article. Although I can read the entire line without having to turn my head, that line length is simply too long. I don't know that many book publishers would design a book with an ungainly 14 3/4" line length, with only 3/8" margins, and many aspects of print design, including this, apply equally to web-page design.

I know that adjusting the width of my browser window while reading an article on Wikipedia is an easy solution to the line-length problem, but that solution has to be considered a work-around. The line length ballooning out to 19 7/8" in a maximized browser window, or even more on a larger monitor than my average-size monitor, recalls old-fashioned web pages from the 1990s, with text stretching the full width of the display screen in a bright color on a busy background with several text elements on the page blinking. Web-page design has become much more sophisticated since then, and Wikipedia's page designs are sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing. Except the line length. That remains a relic from the Old Days.

One solution would be to set a margin in the page template to a percentage of the width of the desktop browser window. If the margins were set to 10% of the browser window width, margins would be 1.8" with my browser window set to 18" wide, producing a line length of 11.125", still a bit wide but better than 14.75". Another solution would be an adjustable margin width for article text. The user would click-drag a margin to where he prefers it and the opposite margin would adjust symmetrically by the same amount. I'm sure Wikipedia's developers could come up with several more solutions. However, if adjustment to the line length is already a feature of Wikipedia, I haven't run into it yet. If it's there, it should be easier to find for the typical reader as, say, an option in the side bar or as a tooltip that appears when the pointer is over a margin.

Please address this issue. Wikipedia is simply too sophisticated a website to require a reader to turn his head to read an entire line of text if his browser window is maximized. Readability is fundamental to a site like Wikipedia, and an excessive line length has a negative effect on readability.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Review of Ontogenesis by Andy Lloyd

I asked Andy Lloyd, author of Dark Star: The Planet X Evidence, if he would review my novel Ontogenesis, and he very kindly provided this probing and erudite review:


My son, currently sitting his GCSEs, spotted this book on our dining room table, and said, "Oh, yeah, ontology, that's all to do with God, and our state of being - we've done something about that in R.E." Which showed that (a) studying for your public exams actually works and (b) my son knew significantly more about this than me. So, having read most of John Garvey's excellent novel by this point, I said, "Yeah, it is kind of like that, only way weirder, all to do with alien intervention, all that stuff." With a half-absent "Cool", my son moved on to something else, and I decided perhaps now was the time to look up what this title actually meant. It's relevant because, although this is 'just' a novel, in my opinion Ontogenesis is a deeply thought through work of metaphysical enquiry.

I'm not really sure my review is going to do it justice, because the philosophies underpinning the work were, at times, stretching my conceptual understanding. At one point, I wrote in my notes that the book was Cubist, in that it was using multiple vantage points to explore certain concepts and situations. Later in the book, it went multi-dimensional, like a game of 3D Tic-tac-toe, and the Cubist structure turned into something more akin to a Möbius strip.

So, let's get a bit academic here, before I try to engage this novel's narrative. My son was pretty accurate; ontology is indeed the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being. However, 'ontogenesis' has been defined as 'the development of an individual organism or anatomical or behavioural feature from the earliest stage to maturity'. Somehow, the author has brought both of these concepts into the book's 337 pages, amalgamating human evolutionary progress with New Age metaphysics, theology and Ufology - all pinned together by plenty of Socratic rhetorical debate. The contents may involve some heady stuff indeed, but the novel is coated by a chilled Californian vibe - rather in the style of Joe Satriani's guitar work; vigorously intellectual and creative, whilst remaining damn cool.

There's a political struggle woven into the work, too; a very American contest between liberalism and social conservatism: A breaking free of mainstream thinking, and a rejection of established and repressive community values. This is all drawn together into the New Age concept of Ascension - a spiritual evolution of being which allows humanity to break through into a multi-dimensional universe already inhabited by more highly evolved alien entities from neighbouring star systems.

The kick in this book is how that transformation plays out on an existential level, i.e. how the protagonist and his Scooby Doo-style band of friends experience this bizarre multi-dimensional roller coaster. There are many allusions to the Matrix movies, at least in terms of the way the book steps out of the box. There are many allusions to Virtual Reality games, an increasingly straightforward solution as the narrative weirdens. But this is no first-person shooter. The author's science fiction style harkens back to a Golden Age, more like Asimov or Bradbury, and brings in action sequences reluctantly, I felt. It didn't help that most of the book is written in the present tense. This may have been a consciously worked aspect of the underlying metaphysics, but it made the pacing of certain tracts of the book feel stilted. To be fair, it can't be easy to mix heady New Age philosophy with widescreen action adventure.

So, to the narrative. The story begins as a Close Encounter of the Fifth Kind ("bilateral contact experiences through conscious, voluntary and proactive human-initiated cooperative communication with extraterrestrial intelligence") on the hills overlooking Los Angeles, involving an eclectic group of UFO enthusiasts. The main protagonist of the story, a marketing executive called Trevor, has brought along his beautiful new girlfriend Veronica, who seems to be settling into this odd clan unexpectedly well. A highly successful encounter with a UFO turns into a classic abduction experience for several members of the group, which is then plunged into chaos when the UFO is intercepted by dark forces mid-abduction.

The abductees are rounded up and imprisoned within a military facility, partly manned by aggressive aliens. Upon their escape, they manage to find their ways home remarkably easily - making the whole thing seem like an extended acid trip. Someone laced the Kool Aid? But this is just the beginning of an evolution of weirdness, which permeates and ultimately takes over the lives of the abductees. They progressively experience a deeper multi-dimensional reality, aided by alien presences whose motives are often questionable. Inevitably, the course of the transformation and ascension of humanity to a new existential level relies upon the courage, determination and underlying humanity of these abductees.

The narrative draws from many, many strands of Ufology. One might even consider it to be a comprehensive exposé of the subject, attempting to understand this disparate discipline by attempting to incorporate all of its fayre simultaneously. The alien denizens of Earth, decidedly Men In Black in concept, rely heavily upon Ufology's menagerie - Greys, reptilians, Nordics, preying mantis-types, shape-shifters, and so on.

Then there are the many conspiracy theories which each try to explain and/or contextualise the UFO phenomenon, including alien bases, mind control, MILABs, ancient aliens, abductions, hybridisation, multi-dimensional encounters, folklore, demonology, environmental catastrophism, our estranged place in the galactic community, and quite a lot of dark David Icke-style material.

But, ultimately, the preferred solution edges towards human progress to a higher spiritual truth, aided by various quasi-religious figures known as Ascended Masters. This requires the book to turn in on itself, and provide multi-faceted experiences for its reader, which serve to penetrate this higher reality. It's an ambitious gambit, and for the most part works well. It's certainly thought-provoking. The sardonic, jocular wit shared by the abductee group gives the sense of a literary work smiling at itself knowingly - like an amused Bodhisattva. Whether the book would appeal to readers not acquainted with the diversity of Ufology, I don't know, but personally I found Ontogenesis engaging and immersive, and enjoyable. I'd certainly read another of John Garvey's books.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement

My email via iPhone to Congressman Adam Schiff:

Sir,
What are you thinking regarding the BDS Movement and Palestinians being mistreated by Israel? International law doesn't apply to Israel? You want to make the BDS Movement illegal?? I know Israel is powerful, and I know some Jewish people in your district are very influential. But human rights are human rights and oppression is oppression, regardless. If the two-state solution were finally implemented, the suicide-bombing would stop, wouldn't it. Wouldn't it. You must do the right thing regarding Palestinians. You know the historical significance of 19 centuries and 7 centuries. Israel cannot claim a birthright any more than any other country could in those circumstances. You must treat Palestine as a nation, and you must not treat Israel as a privileged nation.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cross a walking-simulator with a novel and you get a...

My post to the forum at gamedev.net:


This seems like a good place to start looking for advice and information on developing an unusual hybrid of ebook and game, but if I've missed the mark, I apologize. I've been wanting for a while to add media and interactivity to the e-novel, but my experiences with Sigil haven't been too encouraging. In theory, HTML5 and epub3 should allow the addition of music tracks and embedded puzzles to ebook text, but my results on a previous project when outputting tests to iBooks and Kindle-for-PC were iffy. I have seen that companies like iClassics Productions offer multimedia books, so I know it's possible, at least in what seems like 2.5D. What I'm picturing for my current novel is allowing the reader to go back and forth between a standard ebook with page-flipping and resizable text, and a 3D walking-simulator environment like Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, Firewatch and Gone Home. Fortunately I'm not looking for financial success with this project, because expanding, say, Gone Home out to novel length would interest only a very small market. But it's a project I would like to create just to push the boundaries of the e-novel. Who knows—in the future, students may be able to experience War and Peace as both a novel and FPS.

Briefly, my story uses the theme park as metaphor for how we view the real world. Because political polarization in the US has reached such an extreme level with the last election, I want to explore left and right political philosophies as the central character, an influential theme-park designer, pushes for changes in a new theme-park design as his own politics move from right to left. Which will, of course, eliminate any interest in this project from conservative game developers. The movement from right to left simply reflects my own political shift over the years; an equally valid story by another writer could be based on a shift from left to right.

The way the novel is shaping up now, the reader would experience the project as a walking-simulator embedded within a novel. The project currently begins as an ebook with title-theme orchestral music underscoring the front-matter pages. The walking-simulator isn't accessed until Chapter 2 (although that's not set in stone). But the project would probably have to be constructed, perhaps in Unity, as a walking-simulator with the novel embedded within it. I've been approaching the project up till now as a one-man-band, but simultaneously climbing multiple learning curves is something I would've been happier to do when I was a bit younger. So it occurs to me now to seek help, or at least information regarding focus.

A reel of my LightWave 3D models is at https://vimeo.com/159571874 and my author page at Amazon is at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B002ES921O.

Thanks a lot for reading!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Chuck Schumer and Israeli Exceptionalism

[An edited/extended version of my note to Adam Schiff]

Dear Mr. Schumer:

In your press release of 4 January 2017, you quote Senator Rubio as saying "Efforts to delegitimize Israel have been underway a long time at the United Nations and have now sadly been aided by the outgoing administration" in reference to UN SC Resolution 2334. In contrast, a press release from Senator Feinstein on 23 December 2016 states "President Obama’s refusal to veto today's UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements sends a strong message that the United States still supports a two-state solution. Ending settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is an absolute necessity if we’re ever to achieve a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians." As Rachel Maddow said of Senator Feinstein, she "will crush you and bench press your corpse," and I think it may be in your and Senator Rubio's best interests not to disagree with her. I'm just sayin'.

I expect that you personally feel that Israel's settlements are wrong, as is their treatment of people in Gaza, but you have strong elements among your constituents who will not tolerate any action that is not pro-Israel. To me, this issue is significant enough on the world stage that, if I were in your place, I would vote my conscience even if it meant being voted out of office.

The occupation of the land by Israel as a sovereign nation ended in A.D. 136 with the Bar Kokhba revolt. Nineteen centuries have passed since then. When Crusader influence in the Holy Land was finally eliminated in A.D. 1244 with the Battle of La Forbie, the land came under Muslim control and remained so until 1948. That was seven centuries of Palestine being Muslim land. In any other region of the world, a people forcibly taking land that had not been theirs for 19 centuries from a people in whose possession that land had been for the previous 7 centuries would be considered an illegal invasion, and other nations would become involved in ousting the invading nation. In any other region of the world.

It's understandable, after the insanity in Germany during the second quarter of the twentieth century, that everyone in 1948 felt it important for Jewish people to have a homeland. Had I been living then, I would have agreed. There needed to be significant accommodation after enduring horrors like that. But if one took stock of the situation in 1967, one would have seen that Jewish people were experiencing acceptance and finding prosperity in many places in the Western world, and one would wonder whether the need for a homeland at that point warranted the Six Day War. If the Six Day War had been treated then as a people forcibly taking land that had not been theirs for 19 centuries from a people in whose possession that land had been for the previous 7 centuries, it would have been in line with international law to oppose it. It would have been acceptable to everyone if other nations became involved in ousting the invading nation because the Jewish people had had two decades to heal emotionally by that time. Instead, the drive to oust Palestinians from what has to be defined as their land increased and the establishing of the illegal settlements began.

 Of course you know this history, much better than I do. How would you react to illegal US settlements on American Indian land? How did you react to Iraq invading Kuwait? I'll have to research more but isn't Russia's treatment of Ukraine in the same vein as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? How do you react to Russia's role in that conflict? Do they have a legitimate claim to Ukrainian land, or is their aggression illegal in view of international law? It's baffling to me if you, and any of your Jewish constituents, condemn illegal aggression by the US, Iraq and Russia but condone it for Israel. I don't understand where that double-standard comes from and have to label it hypocrisy.

It's interesting that both you and Senator Feinstein have the same objective, peace between Israelis and Palestinians through a two-state solution. I'm sure that, as a doctor of jurisprudence, you can dissemble with aplomb, and I expect that you personally believe that no logical argument can be made defending the illegal Israeli settlements. Even I, from down here, can see that Senator Feinstein's approach to achieving peace has the moral high ground. The logic leading to the illegal settlements being an obstacle to peace is so bald-faced that one wonders how you, and the other progressives with you, can overlook that. A question from a naive outsider: Did Israel purchase the land for the settlements from the Palestinians, or were contracts simply awarded to construction companies by the Israeli government? I expect that, if the settlement properties had been purchased legitimately from their Muslim owners, the settlements would probably not be termed illegal. If the land wasn't purchased, however, but simply subsumed by Israel, how can that not be considered criminal? It's baffling to me to see how much argues against the legal validity of the settlements and how motivated you are to overlook that. What would motivate you to the point of urging the veto of Res. 2334 and cosponsoring a resolution condemning it?

I would hate to find out that the Israel lobby gives you nice things that are just this side of legal. I would hope your motivation is simply to stay in office where you can do the most good. It could be that your pro-Israel conditioning began in infancy and you actually can't think in any other terms. Whatever your motivation is, you know better than to overlook the illegal settlements as an obstacle to peace. Israel deserved its exceptional status between 1948 and 1967. It no longer does. 19 centuries since the end of Israel's sovereignty cannot be ignored. 7 centuries of Muslim possession of the land cannot be ignored. On the world stage, Israel is just another nation, to whom the limitations imposed by international law apply equally.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Adam Schiff objected to UN Res 2334

Dear Mr. Schiff:

As I understand H.Res. 11 objecting to UN SC Resolution 2334 and your Yea vote, you voted against a toothless Resolution that states that Israel's illegal settlements on Palestinian land constitute a flagrant violation of international law and have no legal validity. I apologize if I have it wrong, since it's an objection to an objection or something like a double negative, but it appears to me that you objected to the UN describing the settlements as illegal. I expect that you personally feel that Israel's settlements are wrong, as is their treatment of people in Gaza, but you have strong elements among your constituents who will not tolerate any action that is not pro-Israel. To me, this issue is significant enough on the world stage that, if I were in your place, I would vote my conscience even if it meant being voted out of office.

The occupation of the land by Israel as a sovereign nation ended in A.D. 136 with the Bar Kokhba revolt. Nineteen centuries have passed since then. When Crusader influence in the Holy Land was finally eliminated in A.D. 1244 with the Battle of La Forbie, the land came under Muslim control and remained so until 1948. That was seven centuries of Palestine being Muslim land. In any other region of the world, a people forcibly taking land that had not been theirs for 19 centuries from a people in whose possession that land had been for the previous 7 centuries would be considered an illegal invasion and other nations would become involved in ousting the invading nation.

It's understandable, after the insanity in Germany during the second quarter of the twentieth century, that everyone in 1948 felt it important for Jewish people to have a homeland. Had I been living then, I would have agreed. There needed to be significant accommodation after enduring horrors like that. But if one took stock of the situation in 1967, one would have seen that Jewish people were experiencing acceptance and finding prosperity in many places in the Western world, and one would wonder whether the need for a homeland at that point warranted the Six Day War. If the Six Day War had been treated then as a people forcibly taking land that had not been theirs for 19 centuries from a people in whose possession that land had been for the previous 7 centuries, it would have been in line with international law and acceptable to everyone if other nations became involved in ousting the invading nation, because the Jewish people had had two decades to heal emotionally by that time. Instead, the drive to oust Palestinians from what has to be defined as their land increased and the establishing of the illegal settlements began.

Of course you know this history, much better than I do. How would you react to illegal US settlements on American Indian land? How did you react to Iraq invading Kuwait? I'll have to research more but isn't Russia's treatment of Ukraine in the same vein as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? How do you react to Russia's role in that conflict? Do they have a legitimate claim to Ukrainian land, or is their aggression illegal in view of international law? It's baffling to me if you, and any of your Jewish constituents, condemn illegal aggression by the US, Iraq and Russia but condone it for Israel. I don't understand where that double-standard comes from and have to label it hypocrisy.

I find your voting record otherwise admirable and I'm pleased to have you as my Representative. I have no complaints regarding your treatment of progressive issues like women's right, lgbt rights, and so on. I am just surprised by your vote regarding Resolution 2334, as I am the abstention of the US from voting on it. In decisions regarding Israel, you must be as broad-minded and aware of historical context as you are with other issues. If Israel's aggression is illegal, then it must not be condoned.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Dear Dr. Zuckerberg

Mark,

The user should have the option to set the default on his News Feed. When I choose Most Recent, it goes back to Top Stories the next day. Even with Most Recent selected now, the stories in my News Feed are ordered 9 hrs ago, 46 mins ago, 7 hrs ago, 41 mins ago... Back off a little, okay? Facebook can't know which stories I, personally, consider top stories, so I would like Most Recent to remain the default. I'll change it to Top Stories when I want. But don't control the user's experience to the point where Most Recent doesn't even produce the most recent. Please allow Most Recent to remain the default, and realize that any reason you would give for not allowing that would be Big Brother talking.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Inform the Electors

My message to President Obama via the whitehouse.gov contact page:


In a situation like this, it isn't appropriate to be politely nonpartisan with regard to the intelligence on Russia's influence on the election. If the Electors would change their minds regarding the scope of the influence when given access to the intelligence, and they are denied access, then they are being forced to make their electoral decision "blind." I'm surprised by your decision to decline to make the information available to the Electors. It's one thing to declassify the information, and we understand your reluctance to do that. But the intelligence is precisely relevant to the decision the Electors will be making. It's recently been said by individuals from both parties that this isn't a partisan issue, it's a constitutional issue. Please rethink your decision regarding the intelligence. The information is precisely relevant to the decision the Electors will be making. They need to be able to make an informed decision.

While I'm at it, I want to thank you for eight years of level-headed even-handedness. Even in the face of ad hominem verbal abuse from a good percentage of the American population and petulant resistance from legislators, you, like the Queen, have never "put your foot wrong." It's been amazing to see you continuing to be positive and professional. We will greatly miss your leadership.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Whitelash Cycle

Sounds like a new style of eye makeup. An article on CNN.com, "This is what 'whitelash' looks like," explains that the term refers to the white backlash that historically has occurred after every era when progress against racism has been made. I wasn't aware of this historical pattern before reading the article, but in thinking about it now it's fairly clear. Reconstruction after the Civil War, the post-war era from 1865 to 1877, was a time when former slaves gained more influence in the country. The article's author, John Blake, says that a century of Jim Crow followed the Reconstruction. He continues "The civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s was followed by President Ronald Reagan and the rise of the religious right." The article was also enlightening for me regarding Obama's presidency, the he isn't "post-racial" but "post-Reconstructionist," with Trump's election echoing the whitelash that occurred in the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century. Hm. It's difficult to analyze history while one is in it.

My own belief, actually deeply held, is that the outcome of the Civil War was the wrong one. There should be, right now, a nation called the Confederate States of America existing beside the USA as peacefully as Canada does. How hard is that to visualize? Crossing the national boundary into the CSA and back again would be no more difficult than entering Canada from Washington State. "Anything to declare?" As it is currently, those we identify as Southerners, which is a term becoming increasingly diffused as that population moves around, also deeply hold the belief that the outcome of the Civil War was the wrong one. For many of them, now, their experience is that they have a dual citizenship, because many believe deeply, down where God and love and country reside, in the deepest part of the heart, that the Confederate States of America was never completely dissolved and still exists in spirit. Evidence of that is the number of Confederate flags currently flying. Dual citizenship is obviously okay and a lot of people are in that situation. The problem comes in when those citizenships conflict. If citizens of the CSA feel that the spirit of the CSA is embedded within the definition of the USA, then they're patriotic for and fiercely supportive of the USA. But if the USA is defined as a forward-thinking nation whose responsibilities and privileges relate equally to all her peoples, their CSA citizenship takes precedence. And actions that could be considered treasonous in one nation may be considered heroic in the other.

The problem of conflicting allegiances probably can't be solved. The constitutional, legal, financial and logistical hurdles keeping the Confederacy from peacefully, bloodlessly seceding from the US now are probably insurmountable. But I can't think of anything that would generate more euphoria among Southerners, especially the straight white Christian blue-collar males who are diehard Trump supporters, than the South actually rising again. Even the return of Jesus in glory wouldn't be quite as exciting for them as the Confederacy peacefully, legally becoming a real entity. If SWCMs feel disenfranchised in the modern world of immigration, workplace equality, and automation, finding a way to make the Confederate States of America a reality—without bloodshed and with the assistance of legal professionals all the way up to the Supreme Court—would give that whole population something to focus on and work toward, a monumental, historic effort in which to take great pride.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Rather Than Skewering Republicans

My email to Rachel Maddow:


Here's something I've been thinking about for a while. Instead of skewering conservatives for the falseness of their claims and for their wealthy-favoring policies, what if we focused instead on conversion? I know it sounds dumb, and I am naive enough to think of something like that. But while I watch you and Chris Hayes and all being uncompromising in your fact-checked roasting of the right wing—and you are world-class in generating moral outrage and/or unbelieving laughter in your viewers—I'm thinking that the very entertainment-value itself is what keeps people on the right from watching your show and learning something. It probably doesn't even cross the minds of most conservatives to watch TRMS because of how the right is ridiculed, although I do remember from a while ago some conservative Congressmen referring to the individual dressing-down they got from your show as a rite of passage. But generally TRMS and All In and all are environments where only masochistic conservatives would venture. While I'm listening to you presenting lucid arguments against different aspects of the right's agenda, I'm thinking "Conservatives should be hearing this!" But the way the information they'd benefit from is presented, they would only feel extremely insulted and as a result would shut out the information. For your typical viewers, it's like emotional support to hear their complaints against the right couched in arguments that are so logical they make the right look ridiculous. But still I frequently think "Conservatives should be hearing this."

I suppose it has to be this way. Your viewers expect skewering of the right. They'd be annoyed if you spent the entire show politely trying to convince conservatives to see the falseness of the right's arguments and you then held an invitation at the end for any conservatives who wanted to convert and they could call the number on their screen. "Call in the next twenty minutes and we'll send you a..." Even having a conservative-friendly segment of the show probably wouldn't work. I doubt they'd tune in even if you identified an upcoming segment as "Safe for Republicans." It's a conundrum. The very information they should hear to get a clearer picture than they get from Fox News, is bristling with comical insults aimed at them. It probably has to be this way. But I just wanted to pass the thought along to you, although I doubt I'm the first viewer who has brought this up. It does seem now that, when the right realizes that Trump isn't going to keep very many of his campaign promises, it would be a time when they would be slightly more willing to listen to the left. Just a thought.

I also wanted to mention that everything I know about the Electoral College overturning the popular vote in the Harrison-Cleveland election I learned from The One and Only Genuine Original Family Band. Disney, 1968. It's a hoot. You might even find yourself singing along. [I saw the film in 1973 and still remember some of the lyrics. "Let's put it over with Grover. Don't rock the boat, give him your vote..." Don't ask me why.]

Sunday, November 27, 2016

PCs to the Back of the Bus

Dear Dr. Apple:

Have you thought of this? Picture an Apple store in a mall with a sign over the door that reads "Whites Only." Picture in another part of the mall an electronics store with a sign over the door that reads "Colored Only." Have you thought about that? It's amazing that Apple is continuing with its separate-but-superior OS segregation policies. It should be easy by now to flow from Windows-based applications to Mac-based applications. There shouldn't even be the Mac/PC dichotomy anymore. But there still isn't the free flow of equals between the two segments of the population because a Wall is in place intended specifically to make access to Mac applications difficult for Palestinians, I'm sorry I meant Mexicans, I'm sorry I meant PC users.

It's well past time for Apple to drop its elitism and stop positioning the Mac in the marketplace as if it's a purely Aryan race of computers. That kind of elitism is more attuned to the world of the 1950s. I can easily picture people who were vehemently opposed to school desegregation flocking to stores that sell these clean white machines assiduously designed to appear different from and better than the hordes of common machines in the other stores. That's how we thought then. But now?

The sleek white surfaces of the Apple product line look so sophisticated and forward-thinking and uncluttered by the past. But beneath those surfaces? It's just old white guys being themselves.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

MoveOn.org's Electoral College Petition Is Back

I haven't been this motivated to be political since Dubya's reelection campaign. (The war we could not stop, the reign we could not end.) It seems that every time I sit down to my computer now I see something or other that triggers a need to respond. This too shall pass. Or something like that. The MoveOn.org petition to tell the Electoral College to cast their votes for Hillary was taken down yesterday, and I sent them a message on the order of "I can't believe you did that!" I see that the petition is back online now but all of the previous signatures must have been deleted. They sent out an email this morning asking for financial support and they made no mention of the petition being back online. I went to the site to check that it was still down and found it online again. This is my reply to the fundraising email:
MoveOn totally messed up when they took down the Electoral College petition. I couldn't believe it. In my previous note I speculated that you'd been infiltrated by a conservative plant or two. I don't know if that's the case or if it was just wanting to appear less like sore losers. In most cases I would agree that being a good loser is the best strategy, but the Trump campaign has been outrageous.

Thank you for bringing back the petition! I see that it's down to 50,000 signatures now. I think I remember it being over 200,000 when I signed it the first time. Let's hope momentum can propel this petition past the highest total number of signatures of the previous petition.

Thanks again for bringing it back!