A What to Society?

What had been a mild mental fog thickened into a cloud of confusion over our heads and the commencement speaker continued, saying, “You have been granted a special gift. You were allowed to go to college instead of working, or raising children. Never forget this. You owe a debt to society, one you must pay back, a dept to the community that let you go to college.”

The woman sitting beside me didn’t just bristle, she dang near turned into a cross between a porcupine and an echidna. She’d worked a part-time job off campus, plus an on-campus work-study, plus earning two scholarships in order to go through school. I think I might have heard something about “I don’ owe society nothin’.” Continue reading


Apprenticeships and Arts

How long does it take to become a master at an art or a craft? Most of us have heard or read about the proverbial 10,000 hours of proper practice, or the first million words needed to learn to write well. Who has time for that now? And why bother? One of my ongoing grumbles about “fine art”, and the trades and crafts, since the 1940s centers on the idea that it’s better not to spend so much time learning the fine, finicky skills of one’s chosen trade and just get on with it. Representational art is dead, it’s only for the unwashed masses (the lowbrow, the deplorable, the “booboisee”). Architecture must break rules, push the limits, remake the world and the people who use the building or public space. Continue reading

Groups, Individuals, and Survival

I’ve been thinking about Chinese society and Western society recently, in part because of shaking my head with lack of surprise at China denouncing the arrest of one of Huawei Corp.’s officers as a violation of human rights. For a government with zero interest in individual rights, they certainly have mastered the use of the West’s ideals to use as a stick to beat their opposition (namely anyone who looks as if they might disagree with China) with.

Which is more important, the group or the individual? In this case, it probably ought to be narrowed down to the government or the individual. China’s answer is the group/government, and that goes back thousands of years. In a way it makes good survival sense. In a way it seems to cripple a lot of what Chinese people might accomplish. Continue reading

Pearl Harbor and a Patrician

December 7, 1941, a day which shall live in infamy, as President F. D. Roosevelt said. It changed the lives of a generation, starting with those directly involved with the attacks in Japan and the Philippines. Then the millions of men called to active duty, the women who worked on the home front or volunteered in the military, and the families they left behind. No one escaped the touch of the war, including those men who would have been considered America’s elites, the wealthy and well-educated, such as George Herbert Walker Bush. When called, they served. Because that was one’s duty as one of the elite – to be a role model, to serve when needed. Or so the temper of the time commanded. Continue reading

So, Who Should Open the Door to the Building?

Short version: the person who does not have their hands full, no matter what sex they happen to be. The younger of the two people, no matter what sex they happen to be. After that it gets messy.

I suppose it is a sign of just how prosperous the western world is, and how few real problems we have, that “Who should open the door to the building” generates so much fuss on the internet. The most simple answer is to look at who has their arms full of packages or is trying to wrangle multiple small children, and open the door for them. Can the other individual physically open the door without help? No? Then you open it for them (provided you won’t drop what you are holding.)

The younger, more able individual opens it for the older or less able person. This is just good manners and being polite, as is the above. Do unto others, et cetera. Continue reading

On Not Opening Doors

“Mom, mom, can we please get the Ouija board set, please?” I could hear the child’s voice from two rows of books away.

“I’ll think about it.” The tone suggested that the answer would be no. I hope it was no. Not to begrudge the store the income, but I do not like Ouija boards, tarot card sets, rune tile sets, and other things as gifts, especially not for children. Although perhaps they might be safer there, because the kids are not looking for answers or trying to open doors. Continue reading