Archive for October, 2007

Genetic Economics

October 5, 2007

This is interesting.  Supposedly, it’s the first time a direct link between genes and decisionmaking has been established in humans.  In other words, it’s the first time scientists have been able to say, “If you have genetic makeup A, you are more likely to choose X over Y in a given situation.”

 Maybe all this partisanship is genetically encoded.  Which would mean the only way to solve it is through cross-breeding.  See, we knew James Carville and Mary Matalin had to be taking one for the team.

Invisible Children

October 4, 2007

A friend of mine, Greg, is planning a trip to Uganda with the organization Invisible Children. While there, he will be shooting “documentary photo essays,” whatever those are. You can read more about the project on his blog.

He’s asking for money, of course, so be warned before visiting his site. But knowing Greg, he doesn’t actually care if you can support him financially. If you don’t have the resources or the inclination to help Greg monetarily, he’d be happy if you just took the time to learn about the important work Invisible Children is doing. So if you get a chance, visit his site and find out what they’re doing.

Romance at the Demolition Derby (I’m phoning it in, yet again)

October 4, 2007

My nephews love demolition derbys. They love going to them. They love playing demolition derby with their bikes and tricycles. It’s a bit disturbing, really, this fascination with derbys. They even know the rules, more or less. I didn’t even know there were rules to a demolition derby. There are, more or less.

My nephews are 5 and 3, so it’s cute that they like demolition derbys.

Apparently, some women think demolition derbys are cute, as well. You may  have seen this story on MSN a few days ago (it was on the main page for a bit) about a man proposing to his girlfriend by painting “Will You Marry Me” on the side of the car he entered in a demolition derby.

He didn’t win the derby, though, so I’m not sure what that says about the future of this marriage.

This sounds like something that’d happen in my hometown. Although I’m proud to say that it didn’t.

Happy Thursdaying, everyone.

Turning Away From History

October 2, 2007

Have you ever had a favorite tv show that you’d been watching for years, had gotten to “know” the characters on, had become somewhat emotionally invested in them and their lives, and then one season the storyline involved one or more of them doing something (or having something done to them) that would have tragic consequences for them and for the show — so much so that you just couldn’t watch it happen? 

You had to turn away; stop watching?

I feel that way about the country right now.  I can’t watch.

I’m a political junky when it comes to policymaking.  (Elections, not so much.)  Have been for 20 yrs., give or take.  What we do as a nation (a national community) is something I care a lot about.  Reading and thinking about its history — political, social, legal, economic, religious, intellectual, and cultural; its trends and cycles and tendencies — up to and including current history, has absorbed the bulk of my adult life: full-time for the first 10 or so years, spare-time in the years since.  I am emotionally and intellectually (not to mention financially) invested in its story and characters; its themes and ideas.

Lately, I find I just can’t watch.  What we’re doing to ourselves is too sad, too tragic, to witness.  What the Founders and many European observers often referred to as “the American experiment” — a phrase that indicates the real fragility we Americans too often forget — is failing.  The country is dying. 

I’ve never felt that before, so I try to find parallels in our history; earlier times when the experiment was in similar jeopardy yet somehow recovered.  I can’t come up with one.  The nearest I can think of is the decades around the turn of the previous century — Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and the Spanish-American War.  Even that era doesn’t seem as dismal for the experiment as the current one, however.  As many dangers and problems as there were, they were fewer, less dire, and less mutually reinforcing than now, and the resources for addressing them were greater and stronger than now.

All of that is my way of saying that political posts may become pretty scarce here at the Hippos.  Maybe my courage will return, but right now, I just can’t watch.  It’s too sad.

Something about Poetry

October 1, 2007

I’m not a big fan of poetry. I just don’t get it. But I’ve recently taken to reading some Jorge Luis Borges. His short stories are genius, and on a fancy, I picked up one of those collected works books recently. In the book is a bunch of poetry. Wanting to get my money’s worth out of the book, I started reading some of the poetry. The investment of time has been worth it so far.

It’s interesting to read collected works, especially if the author gives a little retrospective of their work, which this collection contains. Although he is most known for his prose, Borges’s first published work was a book of poetry:  Fervor de Buenes Aires. This was published in the early 1920s. In his three paragraph retrospective, written in the late 1960s, Borges describes his early poetry as “timid” because he was “fearful of [his] own inner poverty.” And as for the inspiration for his poetry, he says he sought “late afternoons, drab outskirts, and unhappiness.”

So for no reason in particular, other than I’m all about some Borges these days, here’s one of those poems inspired by the late afternoons in Buenes Aires in 1920. I like this poem because there’s a hunger in it — a hunger for acceptance and peace. (And it kind of reminds me of the theme song from Cheers.)


The garden gate is opened
as easily as a turned page
questioned by regular devotion,
and once inside, our gazes
have no need to fix on things
that already exist completely in memory.
I am familiar with the customs and the souls
and that dialectic of allusions
which any gathering of humans weaves.
I need not speak
nor claim false privileges;
those who surround me know me well,
know well my afflictions and my weakness.
That is to attain the highest thing,
what will perhaps be given us by Heaven:
not veneration or victories,
but simply to be accepted
as part of an undeniable Reality,
like stones and trees.