February 27, 2017
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Native-American Flag (At the time meaning white Anglo-Saxons arriving from Europe w/in the past 100 years) ca. 1850
A few weeks ago I attended an art show opening of Oneness at the Irma Freeman Center in Pittsburgh. Among other work, the show featured Maranie Staab’s photographs of refugees from Jordan and Iraq. As our country debates whether and how to permit refugees from various lands to live and work in a nation founded by immigrants, it’s worthwhile to consider the great diaspora from another country. The Irish Potato Famine (An Gorta Mor) of 1845-1850 killed an estimated one to one-and-a-half million people and sent thousands fleeing from their native land.
When the Irish immigrants arrived in America, the response — including in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania, where the Know-Nothing Party had a stronghold — included virulent fear and prejudice against what was perceived as an alien and subversive threat. How different are the stories and faces then from the stories and faces now of those arriving from Syria and Iraq, Mexico and South America?
If you’re Irish (and everyone is on Saint Patrick’s Day) celebrate the luck of your ancestors in not dying of typhus or starvation before making it to Columbia’s fabled shore in coffin ships. Meanwhile, I am continuing to record installments of James Joyce’s The Dead. Take a listen. Hopefully, I’ll finish in time to enjoy a green beer on March 17th. — CDL
December 20, 2016
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Habits of Highly Successful Sociopaths
Charles Dickens, Thought Leader for Our Times
From Syria to to Russia to the U.K. and good ol’ U.S., it seems ’tis the season this year for giving free reign worldwide to human socio-pathology. Scrooge might feel right at home today in his unreformed state. Dickens himself had his shadow side, one that exists in all of us. Perhaps we should view A Christmas Carol less as propaganda illustrating a heartwarming epiphany and inviting smarmy, unrealistic expectations of human behavior, than perhaps a guide to contemporary life. We Americans love self-help books, DVDs and advice web sites. Herewith are suggested affirmations staying with the spirit of the times and finding your inner sociopath. Use them for making your own list and checking it twice, if you are so inclined. N.B.: This is a parody. If you don’t get the joke, ask for a sense of humor for Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or Saturnalia. If you celebrate Festivus, you presumably already have one. – DA
- Start the day with a plan
- Practice Vulcan mind control
- Make faces in a mirror like your favorite business executive or recently-elected political figure of your choice
- When tempted to give money or sympathize with the poor and homeless, hit your head with a hammer. Better yet, hit the poor and homeless with a hammer. It’s their fault for making you feel that way.
- If you must give, give worthless items to charity that can be written off for exorbitant amounts (e.g. – dysfunctional computer systems (e.g., ‘the cloud’), worthless real estate, obsolete airplanes, ). Do this in an ostentatious manner while humblebragging
- Update your Facebook page. Lie. Take every comment personally.
- Update your Ok (Stupid) Cupid profile. Lie.
- Stay up till four in the morning monitoring social media feeds and responding in an obsessively petty manner – despite the fact that you will soon be responsible for the safety of the free world and need your rest.
- Add or subtract four inches to or from a part of your anatomy of your choice. For women, this could be the bust size. For guys — you get the idea.
- Friendship is for losers, but it’s helpful to fake it. A few tips:
- People will put up with a lot to be able to say they have friends
- Everyone is lonely. It’s a fact of life
- Saying you have friends at work is pathetic and delusional or a lie
- Remember the sky’s the limit on what you can get away with.
- People’s capacity for wishful thinking and self-delusion is unlimited.
- Recent studies say there’s no free will. Everything we do is determined by genes and neurochemistry. Therefore —
- It only counts if you’re caught — and then you couldn’t help it
- If you insist on believing in God or some other Higher Power, you might check out predestination. Start with Martin Luther, world’s worst Catholic.
August 18, 2016
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A few years ago I bought a bicycle carrier for the car. The carrier was made in Sweden and well-designed. The Swedish generally seem to know what they’re doing: See Volvo, Ikea, Ingmar and Ingrid Bergman.
May 30, 2016
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With no apologies to General MacArthur, old soldiers do die. So do young ones. They are still doing so, whether or not we decide their cause is just.
I came across a marker for Jacob Blough in a cemetery near Johnstown PA — before thunder and lightning made me leave before I ended up there too.
Blough fought in the American war for independence with the Pennsylvania militia. He lived until 1810. Seeing his gravestone made me ponder the following:
- Did he see action? If so where?
- How did he feel about fighting against his former countrymen on the British side; perhaps killing them and watching his own comrades die for the sake of freedom?
- Did he ever question the cause of American independence? Or did he believe in it wholeheartedly and without doubt?
- What kind of life did he have after his service? Did he find a job and family and happiness?
I also wondered what we would think of Blough if he fought for independence today. Would we consider him a terrorist or a freedom fighter? Or both? Could I fight and die for the cause beside him? Or would I reveal myself as a coward? Or a fanatic? Which is worse? — DA
February 11, 2016
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Since becoming involved with the Pittsburgh chapter of Engineers Without Borders, I’ve become intrigued by the notion of appropriate technology. EWB is kind of like Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières), except members carry a slide rule (well, handheld calculator) instead of a stethoscope.
I’m not an engineer (nor do I play on on TV). I am interested in novice-expert learning, problem-solving, storytelling and how we share what we know. I have written before on the right tool for the job, and techniques and technology that fit particular needs within constraints of time, money and resources. This includes older technologies that can be re-purposed for modern needs. For example, Crankies , aka moving panoramas, offer a form of visual storytelling dating to before the 19th Century that does not require PowerPoint or electricity. (Carbide lamp, anybody?)
Image courtesy of The Crankie Factory. Pittsburgh’s first Crankie Fest is slated for 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Wilkins School Community Center in Swissvale.
Although it is 365 miles (587 kilometers) from the ocean, Pittsburgh is not entirely landlocked. Whatever is tossed into our region’s three rivers flows to the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico, included the plastic bags and other trash that end up in the oceans. Now an idea originally developed by a 16-year old Dutch kid named Boyan Slat may help provide a low-tech answer to removing it.
We’ve certainly been sold the notion that technology can meet our every need, from medications to self-driving cars. But there’s usually a tradeoff, as Sherry Turkle and others have recently written.
In assessing the appropriateness of any technology, we would do best to keep in mind the question Neil Postman asked: What problem does this technology solve? What problem(s) does it create? — CDL
August 27, 2015
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I’m reading Ill Fares the Land , which Tony Judt (1948-2010) wrote while living with and dying from ALS.
I’m not a big believer in karmic messages, but the following also caught my attention. We have a choice to take our lessons where we find them, or not. How would you want to live if you knew you were dying – which, by the way, we’re all going to do –?
Aries for the Week of August 27, 2015
You like to run ahead of the pack. You prefer to show people the way, to set the pace. It’s cleaner that way, right? There’s less risk you will be caught up in the messy details of everyday compromise. But I suspect that the time is right for you to try an experiment: Temporarily ease yourself into the middle of the pack. Be willing to deal with the messy details of everyday compromise. Why? Because it will teach you lessons that will serve you well the next time you’re showing the way and setting the pace.
So there. Thanks to Rob Brezsny at Freewill AstrologyTM. – CDL
If you signed up for Brave New World: Technology in Literature & Popular Culture a dedicated web site and blog are
in progress complete. I will add added a link to the course site here on or before May 10th under Events. I am teaching this class May 17th — June 14th through Osher Lifelong Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. Registration is still open. Please see the following summary.
Time: Five successive Fridays from 1:00 — 2:50 May 17th through June 14th.
Location: Cathedral of Learning, Oakland Campus, Room 332
Instructor: Chuck Lanigan
- Readings (online and printed)
- Class Contributions
- Assignments & Readings
We will cover technology through each era’s unique :
- Popular Culture (Film, Periodicals. Letters, Etc.)
The introductory text is Neil Postman’s Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century: How the Past Can Improve the Future. (Please click to view an online video of Postman being interviewed about the book). I will also share printed excerpts (handouts) and links to online sources to be listed on the site, along with examples from film & television.
In the meantime, please feel free to submit comments or questions related to the course. Stay tuned. — CDL