Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bush - Clinton - Bush - Clinton

UC podcast offers a lecture by Mark Halperin, political analyst of Time Magazine. The lecture was held at University of Texas at Austin, LBJ School of Public Affairs in September. I am going to quote the editorial posted along the podcast.
Halperin engaged in a discussion with students and faculty from across campus on the current political landscape.

Mark Halperin was named editor-at-large and senior political analyst for TIME in April 2007.

Prior to joining TIME, Halperin worked at ABC News for nearly 20 years, where he covered five presidential elections and served as political director from November 1997 to April 2007. In that role, he was responsible for political reporting and planning for the network's television, radio and Internet political coverage. He also appeared regularly on ABC News TV and radio as a correspondent and analyst, contributing commentary and reporting during election night coverage, presidential inaugurations and State of the Union speeches.

At ABC, Halperin reported on every major American political story, including working as a full-time reporter covering the Clinton presidential campaign in 1992 and the Clinton White House. He also covered major non-political stories, such as the O.J. Simpson criminal trial and the Oklahoma City bombing.

Additionally, Halperin founded and edited the online publication The Note on, which has been characterized as the most influential daily tipsheet in American politics by publications including The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Vanity Fair.

He remains a political analyst for ABC News, and is the co-author of The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008 (Random House, 2006).

Halperin received his B.A. from Harvard University and resides in New York City with Karen Avrich.
Next I am going to give Halperin's claim: The Democrats are likely to win the election and among the Democrat candidates Hillary Clinton has the best chances. The elections are going to be close, last time surprises can make a difference, but right now, Ms. Clinton has the best prospects.

Parashat Vayera - KMTT

KMTT's Chanoch Waxman discusses by the end of the podcast episode about Parashat Vayera one of the most difficult stories of the Torah. The whole of his lecture builds up to the horribly difficult and contradicting test to Abraham's faith when he must sacrifice Isaac. This is called the 'Akedah' - I had to look this up in order to be sure that this was what Waxman was talking about.

I know a nineteenth century version of the story. A man whose responsibility it was to guard an railway interchange and direct the trains into the right tracks, one day saw his only son playing on the tracks. He then faced a dilemma. Either he should rush out and save his kid from being overrun by a train, but then he would not manage to reset the tracks in time and the incoming train would collide with the newly arrived train at the station. Or, he would set the tracks right, but then he would have no time to save his kid and it would be killed by the train. What should he do? What DID he do?

This is a choice between his duty and what is dear to him. Maybe not exactly like Abraham, who had to choose between blind obedience and what was dear to him. It was also a choice between obedience of the higher authority without question and following what to him must seem the most coherently right way (mind you, child sacrifice is absolutely forbidden in Judaism. AND God had promised Abraham offspring that would grow into a multitude).

Anyway, both Abraham and the signalman follow duty without question. The signalman prevents the collision on the train and just like Abraham he is saved from the terrible consequence of his decision. The story ends thus: it just so happened his wife was in the train at the station and she also saw the child and she had the time to save the child from the tracks. Abraham is saved in the knick of time by the authority that has sent and tested him. Listen to what Waxman has to say.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Werkloosheid in Vroomshoop (2)

De vermelding in het Guinness Book kwam er. In 1984 was zo'n 50% van de beroepsbevolking van Voormshoop werkloos en de vooruitzichten bleven slecht. De actie van de jonge werklozen had de aandacht op Vroomshoop gevestigd en VPRO's OVT vertelt hoe de handen uit de mouwen gestoken werden om Vroomshoop er bovenop te krijgen. De gene, het isolement en de impliciete, hardnekkige ontkenning en het niet onder ogen willen zien van de problemen werd doorbroken.

De interviews laten horen dat tot op de dag van vandaag velen niet blij waren dat de vuile was buiten gehangen werd. Men is toch liever trots op Vroomshoop en om een Vroomshoper te zijn. Schoorvoetend wordt toegegeven dat het toch wel erg was en dat een en ander nu wel verbeterd is. De analyse van toenmalig Burgemeester Van Overbeke (Nu de burgervader van Hellendoorn, of all places!), politiechef Lodder en hoofd van de lagere school Massink, laten een nog lelijker beeld dan de statistiek zien. Niet slechts 50% werkloosheid, maar ook een negatieve spiraal van criminaliteit en ander onmaatschappelijk gedrag. Goed dus, er werd aangepakt en de situatie verbeterde, mede dankzij de aantrekkende economie.

Pikant detail is dat een van de briefschrijvers uit 1984 na 15 jaar werken in de sfeer van werkloosheidsprojecten anno nu werkloos is. 'Als je 50 wordt, wordt het toch moeilijker om een baan te vinden.' Alles is beter. Als het niet zo is, laat het in godsnaam niet naar buiten komen. Liever trots op Vroomshoop dan de misere in het gezicht te kijken. 1984 is uitgewist. Probleemwijk Het Zwarte Gat is gerenoveerd tot Nieuwoord, zelfs de straatnamen zijn veranderd. En als Van Overbeke nog wel eens door Vroomshoop rijdt vindt hij: "Het ziet er toch netjes uit."

The Daily Whiplash (9)

Yesterday I went without pain killers altogether. This morning I only have a wincing tinge of a headache, which I'd rather ascribe to a common disposition of mine than to the whiplash. As a side note on that common disposition it needs to be said I haven't had heavy headaches in years. Israel has been good on me and even in the last years in Amsterdam the aches were a minor issue, but until 1994 I was prone to exhausting headaches, either in the form of ghastly attacks, or aggravating cling things. In the interview with Bert ter Schegget it is said that headaches and migraine are a typical ailment of the Dutch Protestants. Oy vey.

Back to the main subject, back to the whiplash, back to back and neck. After the accident I have head headaches, but they were the first to subside. Then went the lower back pain, then middle back, then the shoulders, then the shoulder blades and what is left is the neck and incidental at that. Bilhah, the expeditious physiotherapist, pulled and rubbed and stretched and strained my neck on Sunday and when I reported some pain during this treatment, called me the princess on the pea. In Hebrew she is even a princess on a lentil. I feebly protested that at least I was a prince, pea or lentil or whatever legume, and I heard her think: 'prince, yeah, but a sissy at that.' Anne, not much of a man.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Missing Link from Berlin

Elizabeth Green Musselman admits to have a great love for the city of Berlin as she issues the third episode of her podcast The Missing Link from this wonderful city. Wonderful, I say, because I can only agree. I love Berlin and have very fond memories, especially of Prenzlauer Berg. Another agreement we have is about Wim Wenders's film that takes place in Berlin and catches the melancholy atmosphere of the city: Wings of Desire. Wings of Desire? It took me a moment, but the description left no doubt, it is the same film, I just know it as Der Himmel über Berlin.

Elizabeth takes us on two tours, one to the Charité, where the sad fate of Berlin's dying came together with the foundations of pathology. After the musical break (music is prominently featured in this podcast) we find ourself in the Phonogram Archive, which is host to what today would be called World Music, but which set out to be a repository for the study of Musical Ethnography. How close ethonography grazes on racism and how close racism in Germany spells disaster everybody knows. Yet, the archive gives us a treasure trove of ethnic sounds, some of which are extinct. How skillfully Green Musselman captured the melancholy!

As a conclusion I want to recommend this podcast. It has only started and it will try to produce episodes once a month, which is not much by podcasting standards, but the quality is great from the get go. Exquisite listening, entertaining and educating at the same time.

Gil Fronsdal on speech

You do not have to be a Buddhist to appreciate Gil Fronsdal's Dharma teachings (zencast). Most of the time he doesn't even talk of Buddhism, or Buddhists. He talks of the Buddha and of the Buddhist way, but that can easily be taken generally as the Godly, Wise, Good and such abstract generic terms. Were it about Buddhists though, the exclusion kicks in that irritates me most when Evangelical Christians or Orthodox Jews engage in that kind of talk, because it boils down to nothing generic, but rather very specific: the us, who are of the exquisite faith and elated ways as opposed to the ignorant, misguided, backward, lowly rabble, that is, me.

As said, with Fronsdal you have none of that. So I was a bit surprised when in his last talk (about Speech) he threw in the sentence: 'and we will see why Buddhists are not always nice.' I liked the talk as usual and completely forgive Gil, but in my heart feel that the toy phrase, wherever used, was irrelevant. Buddhists are people, people are not always nice, hence Buddhists are not always nice - it goes without saying and added nothing to the point.

Was the Buddha not always nice? A prince once asked him whether he has ever said something unwelcome and painful to anyone. Fronsdal relates the answer to this trick question. The issue revolves around Right Speech, which he extends from speech to others to the monologue interior, the way we speak to ourselves. Also there we must say what is true, kind and helpful. So if the Buddha ever said anything unwelcome and painful to anyone it had to have been true, kind and helpful at the same time. Lastly, speech must be timely. If what we have to say, no matter how true, kind and helpful is not welcome and painful to ourselves or to the other, it must be said in the right time.

Fronsdal asks the audience to contemplate on the question how to deal with true, kind and helpful words and how to deliver them in a timely fashion to the one who finds those words not welcome and painful. The contributions from the audience are inspiring although a definitive answer is not given. If any at all, then it is, when in doubt it is better to err on the nice side. True for everybody, truly an struggle without end, whether Buddhists are nicer than others or not.

The religiousness of presidency candidates

James Hudnut-Beumler, Professor of American Religious History and dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School speaks of religion and politics in the US. This lecture is available on UC podcast. All American presidents were religious. Thomas Jefferson even spent what little free time he had, studying various Bible versions and comparing the gospels, attempting to get to the heart of Jesus's message. (Hey, that reminds me of the immensely interesting series about the Historical Jesus, Professor Thomas Sheehan.) Just an example and an alebiet superfluous reminder American Presidents invariably are Christians.

They are mostly protestant at that. John F. Kennedy had some explaining to do, since he was a Roman Catholic, when he was a candidate. These days, Professor Hudnut-Beumler explains, more than ever candidates are to emphasize and elaborate on their religiosity. This is not just the fate of the Mormon candidate Mitt Romney. It seems religion is more than ever perceived to be important in politics.

Professor Hudnut-Beumler hastens to emphasize that we deal with election politics here. When the election hubbub is over, he seems to argue - and he quotes JFK - we are back to realpolitik and back to hard issues. But with a president such as George W. Bush, how sure can you be religion plays no part their. After 8 years of Bush, whomever is going to be next, he - or she, Hillary Clinton - will have some heritage to deal with, including the religious weight issues have gotten. So has the public, maybe.

Marathon interview Bert ter Schegget

Wat rechtvaardigt het marathoninterview als zodanig? Wat maakt het beter dat de interviewer en geinterviewde niet een half uur of een uur, maar vier, vijf uur bij elkaar zitten om met elkaar te spreken? En dat terwijl de luisteraar zonder enige verdere redactie kan meeluisteren? Er zijn er in de serie marathoninterviews van de VPRO waar de lengte mij een bezwaar lijkt. Of waar het interview eigenlijk een opeenstapeling van meerdere interviews is.

Het interview dat Hans Simonse met Bert ter Schegget had op 11 augustus 1989 is echter een voorbeeld van een natuurlijk voortgaand gesprek, waar de grote verdienste van de tijdsduur is dat het gesprek ook echt de diepte in gaat. De complexe positie van de theoloog en ethicus Ter Schegget tussen Christendom en atheisme, tussen linkse maatschappijkritiek en ook deel van de maatschappij zijn. Uiteindelijk komt er ook fikse kritiek op het liberale pluralisme, dat in 1989 misschien nog heel erg outlandish klonk, terwijl het anno 2007 veel duidelijker is wat Bert daar nu eigenlijk mee bedoeld heeft.

Daarbij gaat het over ethiek in verhouding tot technologie, over tolerantie en multiculturalisme en de afwijzing van bepaalde opvattingen (het voorbeeld Rushdie komt aan de orde). Je zou het interview wel drie keer moeten beluisteren om in de tentatieve, zoekende en intens subtiele opvattingen van Bert ter Schegget antwoorden besloten liggen die vandaag meer dan ooit actueel zijn.

Speaking of Faith - Beyond the Atheism-Religion Divide

Here is a quote from Harvey Cox's book The Secular City:
Athens and Jerusalem have created a whole history through their interaction with each other, and so have religion and secularization. In both cases, as soon as one achieves a kind of dominance, the other swoops back from exile to challenge it. When reason and intellect begin to ride high, they inevitably make unrealistic claims, and faith and intuition awaken to question their hegemony. Then, just as the sacral begins to feel its oats and reach out for civilizational supremacy, reason and cognition question its pretentiousness.

Harvey Cox makes an appearance in Krista Tippett's podcast Speaking of Faith to speak about the Atheism-Religion divide. A transcript of their conversation is available, as usually with SOF episodes. At the time when Cox wrote the Secular City (1965) he assumed, as many of his contemporaries, that religion was on the decline and especially in academic circles, religion would disappear. However, since the 1980's it has shown not to disappear, quite to the contrary.

I think what shows, is that questions of meaning and morality had remained. Traditionally this has been the field of religion and when Cox speaks of 'when Jesus came to Harvard' he doesn't claim academics are turning Christian, but rather use their traditional heritage (Christian in most cases, Jewish for many) as an entrance into these issues, but no longer in the traditional exclusionary sense. Hence, secular, in many ways they have remained. Secular academics do not exclude search for ethics, meaning and spirituality. Cox calls this 'part of the conversation'. The open phone line between Athens and Jerusalem.

Nederland en de eerste wereldoorlog

Komende week verschijnt het boek De Eerste wereldoorlog door Nederlandse ogen; Getuigenissen-verhalen-betogen. VPRO's OVT spreekt met samensteller Jacques Sicking. Nederland was weliswaar neutraal in de grote wereldbrand, maar de oorlog kon toch onmogelijk ongemertk voorbij trekken. Er was mobilisatie, er waren tekorten, vluchtelingen, Zierikzee werd gebombardeerd en er waren Nederlandse vrijwilligers in de strijdende legers.

De schrik zat er bij de Nederlanders net zo goed in. Jacques Sicking vertelt van het pacifisme dat opkomt, het anti-nationalisme en de oproep tot een supra-nationale Europese volkenbond. Behalve de waanzin van het Nationalisme, menen de programmamakers dat het nationalisme er niet minder van werd. Het voorgaande item had juist bij het populisme en eventueel nationalisme onder de Nederlanders in de jaren twintig en dertig stilgestaan. Ik denk dan zelf: dat is in de andere landen ook gebeurd. Uit de boeken van Remarque spreekt de gelijktijdige opkomst van Duits anti-oorlogsdenken en de nationalistische milities.

Sicking stelt zich ook op het standpunt dat de wereldberoemde oorlogsliteratoren die de Grote Oorlog opleverde in het buitenland (Sassoon, Barbusse, Remarque etc) een onderwerp in de literatuur representeren dat ook in de Nederlandse voorkomt, zowel in proza als in poëzie. Het lijkt een buitengewoon mooie bloemlezng te zijn. Het levert om te beginnen al geweldige podcast op.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Patrick Hunt on Hannibal (and more)

I have already reviewed a singular lecture Patrick Hunt gave on Hannibal's journey across the Alps. I have had some feedback from Stanford, boiling down to a rejection of my criticism how difficult it is to find their audio content. Too bad for them. By now I have found they are not the only one. More universities have given a monopoly to iTunes U and I fail to see how you could get those podcasts through other channels than iTunes.

Stanford makes it worse by not syndicating the content. If only one could extract the RSS url, one could bypass the iTunes bother and subscribe wherever one wants. Again, this is too bad for Stanford, but it is also too bad for the listeners and for exceptionally outstanding lecturers such as Tom Sheehan and the already mentioned Patrick Hunt. His Hannibal lecture was a true jewel and it turns out that Stanford has begun publishing a series where Hunt delves into his analysis in seven or more lectures of 90 minutes. EDIT: this situation has changed. Stanford has now syndicated its audio.

When I wrote about the singular lecture, I forwarded the link to Hunt and he replied by having me send his book: Ten discoveries that rewrote history. Yesterday I received that book (after my 95 year old neighbor had been hogging it for god knows how long). Soon I will write about that. Thank you very much Patrick.

Buitenlandcorrespondent - De Ochtenden

Een gesprek met NRC-correspondent Oscar Garschagen, die deze week zijn standplaats Tel-Aviv verruilde voor Shanghai. Hoe kijkt hij - na vier jaar verslaggeving vanuit Israël - aan tegen het Israelisch-Palestijnse conflict en wat wacht hem in China? Garschagen reageert ook op de stelling van een van zijn voorgangers, Joris Luyendijk, dat het voor een correspondent in het Midden-Oosten door propaganda-machinaties praktisch onmogelijk is te berichten wat er echt gaande is. Luyendijk won eerder deze maand de NS Publieksprijs met zijn boek Het zijn net mensen.

Dit is een reminder voor mij om het boek van Luyendijk, dat nog steeds op mijn nachtkastje ligt, verder te lezen. Ik had het wat wrevelig terzijde gelegd, omdat ik zijn analyse te simpel vond. Hij heeft wel gelijk dat de berichtgeving aan alle kanten door de partijen gemanipuleerd wordt en dat datgene wat je kunt laten zien, meteen een stellingname suggereert door de manier waarop je het laat zien en wat je niet laat zien. Maar de wijze waarop de perceptie plaatsvindt, lijkt mij toch iets gecompliceerder dan Joris veronderstelt - vond ik.

Garschagen gaat ook niet in het geheel van Luyendijk mee. "Je kan toch wel verslag doen van wat je zelf gezien hebt." Al voegt hij er ironisch aan toe dat hij ooit een aanslag zag gebeuren, maar er niet over kon beginnen te berichten, totdat de telexen van de grote persbureaus erover begonnen.

Nicknames for Word Nerds

The 94th edition of The Word Nerds is not just about nicknames. Howard and Dave Shepherd begin with discussing mascots and only then the nicknames begin.

What I learned this edition is where nickname comes from. The original word is 'ekename'. Then 'an ekename' evolved into 'a nickname' - note the n moving from the article to the noun. On a side note, it is also explained what is the difference between a nickname and a moniker. The Word Nerds claim that a nickname may be given, but a moniker is a chosen alias. And I was thinking it may have something to do with monks...

The rude word of the week is not one word. It is a round of confessions by Howard and Dave and an invitation to the listeners to chip in and relate what was your worst nickname. I personally had a load of nicknames. Especially my sister had a knack for driving me up the wall with her inventions, but the nasty one that stuck for a long time was Panne. Just my luck.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Werkloosheid in Vroomshoop (1)

In 1964 werd aan Jean Paul Sartre de Nobelprijs voor de literatuur toegekend en hij weigerde. OVT besteedt aandacht aan deze weigering. Een relaas van een aangekondigde weigering - Sartre had alles gedaan om te voorkomen dat hij de prijs kreeg en toen kreeg hij hem toch. Een brief die niet aangekomen was - een knullig verhaal.

Dat leek het leukste onderdeel van VPRO's OVT, maar tot mijn verrassing werd ik getroffen door een tweedelige serie uit het spoor terug, over werkloosheid in Vroomshoop. Vroomshoop dat ik mij herinner van de indoor tennisbaan met groen vilten ondergrond en daarnaast de trieste houtstapels van naar ik meen De Groot Vroomshoop (Kor, de oudste zoon van De Groot zat bij mij in de klas), een bedrijf dat ook vandaag nog met zijn business in houtconstructies en aanverwante zaken actief is. Geen directe associatie met werkloosheid.

Maar in het midden van de jaren tachtig (dezelfde tijd van mijn herinneringen), bleek Vroomshoop het hoogste werkloosheidspercentage van Nederland te hebben en besloot een van de werklozen daar aandacht op te vestigen met een ludieke actie. Hij schreef een brief aan het Guinness book of records als zou het dorp de hoogste werkloosheid van de wereld hebben. In OVT komt de treurige geschiedenis van het Veen aan de orde. En ook de moeizame verhouding met het naburige Den Ham. Dat was de uitzending van 21 oktober. Morgen gaan we verder.

The purpose centered life

Your purpose centered life is a podcast containing monologues by Eric Maisel. Four episodes have been put out so far and Eric is building his monologue from the sheer meaninglessness of the universe - he is a proclaimed atheist - to a willful quest for individual meaning. A meaning chosen and acquired, rather than discovered. I am on track with his line of thinking, no need to be an atheist to tag along with the feeling of an indifferent universe, and fascinated to find where he will get the listener.

For those who are especially attracted by his philosophy, there is a wide range of books he has published and also his coaching method to be followed. What I am waiting for is ethics or morality to arrive at the scene. But that is just my personal preference. Or maybe, my personal highlight of ascribed meaning.

The novel La Peste by Albert Camus has inspired me to that, many years ago. One of the main characters tries to be 'a saint without god.' It is a necessary implication of true morality. If the whole point of morality is to freely choose good over evil, the existence of god is a bother, it makes for choosing the Godly Good, like choosing the winning team; a pragmatic choice. On the other hand, atheism has a drag assuming morality, without allowing for an absolute good. I am eager to find out how Maisel handles that.

Short history of science essays

The Missing Link podcast is hosted by Elizabeth Green Musselman, a history professor at Southwestern University. She delivers two essays per podcast and aside her own, she allows one of her students to speak. The two essays take together between two and three quarters of an hour. They are light monologues on a topic that is somehow related to the history of science. I applaud this initiative. After three issues, the podcast could turn still in many new directions, but what we have so far is to my liking and should be encouraged to continue.

The first episode considers some of the ways that science fiction has drawn inspiration from planetary science. Guest essay by Megan Healy on how well the depiction of women scientists in 1950s American sci-fi films matched up against the reality of women scientists' lives at that time.

The second episode dives into the differences between women and man. We find they are not opposites but rather human beings with a slightly different hormone balance.

The third is a cast directly from Berlin - this one I still have to listen to.

The Daily Whiplash (8)

I have managed to reduce the amount of pain killers I take. The kind I use, allows for a max of 3 per day, but I have had a couple of days I smuggled in an extra dose and made it to 4. Now I am using 2 per day.

In addition, the orthopedic doctor prescribed me a muscle relaxant containing diazepam. I looked it up in Wikipedia and was surprised to find this is actually valium. I hesitantly tried expecting a sleepy stupor, but was surprised to find that it does exactly what it has been prescribed for: relax the muscles.

Marsha Linehan on DBT

In this issue of Wise Counsel, David Van Nuys interviews Dr. Marsha Linehan, who is the founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), an empirically validated form of psychotherapy useful for treating people who have borderline personality disorder, suicidal people, and other people who are in severe and chronic psychological pain. What is exceptionally interesting about this method is the combination of behavioral and mind oriented approaches of psychology.

Marsha explains that she was bothered that though behavioral psychology offered her tools to bring about change with her clients, she needed to install some peace of mind and acceptance of the situation in them as well. In mind oriented techniques, that is all that is offered, but change was needed just as much. Hence she went out of her way to make a working combination of the two.

Now that she has managed to do that and empirical research shows the efficacy of DBT, she emphasizes for Dr. Dave, the work is not yet done. Still there is fine tuning to do, still she feels she could improve the therapy. She speaks in this respect of 'trimming down' DBT; finding out how the effect can be established with less effort.

Friday, October 26, 2007

De gustibus...

I remember a special kind of disdain that the mother of a childhood friend used to utter. Anything that did not meet with her standards simply wasn't 'Christian'. Later I met people whose demean for another was that he was not 'Socialist', not a 'Scientist' and these days of course there are those that are not exactly 'Jews' or 'Zionists'.

With all that we assume the quality to strive for, the predicate we need in order to excel as a human being we have a hard time to define what it is. In the acclaim, however, someone does not deserve that label or meet that standard, or possess that quality, we indulge, heartily. Thus making the finer distinctions between mere human beings and the achieved specimen.

The most elusive of the aspirations and no less weapon in our war against the lesser of our peers is Taste. Surely, it can be no good person, if he has no taste and conversely we assume, or like or hope to think of ourselves that we do and thus earn membership of the salt of the earth. When did taste become such a treasured commodity? Have we ever been able to define it, or is it, maybe even more so, of those qualities that we can only identify where it is absent? Listen to and begin to find the answer with the latest edition of BBC's In Our Time.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bioethics without Christ, please

The Bioethics podcast delivers two episodes (048 and 049) which together are a lecture by Amy Laura Hall, Ph.D. titled Conservative and Liberal Bioethics. This is a lecture of which I expected a lot and eventually eluded me altogether. I can appreciate that Hall is a conservative and is not poised to represent Liberal Bioethics in an advantageous light, but I was hoping to get a little bit more information, so that I could better understand what it is and how it is different from the Conservative view.

Unfortunately, Liberal views are hardly outlined and as far as I was hoping to be introduced into the Conservative view, I am left a bit frustrated also, I wouldn't be able to repeat. It makes me think Hall was speaking for her own parish and such may explain better so, what beginning and end held the lecture together.

The beginning is that Hall complains she has to explain to liberals that there can be no ethics without a believe in God, 'till she is blue in the face'. How so, I wonder, though I can anticipate some of the thinking. I can even appreciate it, when we treat 'God' as an abstract supreme order, and not as Christ, G-d or Allah, for that matter. According to the end of the lecture, Hall's version is clearly Christ. And she utters the last sentences in the way of liturgy, in the language of worship and not of rational discourse. What I make of it is that The Crucifixion of Christ is in her opinion the most important happening in past and present and has everything to do with Bioethics. At that point, it is entirely beyond me what is talking about. How could I, I am not a member of the liturgy anyway.

I want to engage in Bio Ethics, but here I am shut out of the deal, not on the grounds of my opinions, nor my intelligence, nor my writings, but on the ground of not being a member of the club. I wonder whether this is ethical at all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Speaking of Faith - Einstein and Ethics

After this program I feel a bit dissatisfied. Einstein's ethics was a little bit about his pacifism and slightly more about his stance against segregation. (see transcript) Neither elements were presented in some systematic form and they were hardly coupled to each other or to more Einsteinian ethics. Is this all there is? I have a feeling there is more.

I must point out this is a good program and an interesting edition, but it is so obviously radio. You are treated with snippets from Einstein and from the interviews Tippett did. In the end, it is the inevitable assemblage nature of the program that leaves me dissatisfied and I understand that for a program such as Speaking of Faith it cannot be different.

It is for the likes of me, that the site offers additional stuff. More from the interviews, authentic audio with the voice of Albert Einstein, links, more from Krista Tippett's book (with the same title: Speaking of Faith) and her journal. Thus, you can make your own assemblage. An assemblage it remains, I am afraid.

The Daily Whiplash (7)

The whole day yesterday, pains kept haunting me and I had the impression (as I wrote) the pain killers had begun to wear off. So today I am trying to survive without taking them at all. I am not sure whether I will be able to handle until the end, but so far so good. The pain is still bearable.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Historical Jesus - Tom Sheehan, Stanford

Stanford University offered in the fall of 2006 a course with the compelling title The Historical Jesus; it can be downloaded from iTunes U. Theology Professor Thomas Sheehan takes us in ten 90 minute lectures through the intricacies of text analysis and the historical reception and development of the stories about Jesus in order to dissect what has been added and what presumably is authentic fact. Even though the pretense is a course in history, the implied theology imposes itself. Nevertheless a very exciting history podcast.

Even though I am an ardent secular wound up in the land of the Jews, I received a very thorough Protestant Christian education. As a result of that, many of the basic facts that Sheehan uses to reconstruct the Historical Jesus were already known to me. I knew the chronological order in which the stories were written. I knew the gospels arose from different communities and so on. This course was the first to put all of these known points together and draw conclusions about what must have been added and what, consequently can be assumed to be the man and his message on which the elaborations were built.

Though not identical, much of what is discussed in the course and what conclusions are drawn parallel Sheehan's book The First Coming. The synopsis reads:
Thomas Sheehan analyses the historical background of Jesus and his teachings, and finds, amidst variously-conceived messianic expectations among Jews of the time, the probable content of what Jesus taught: a message of God's definitive presence among humankind, with radical implications for social justice and personal ethics. Sheehan argues that Jesus thought of himself not as God or Christ but as God's eschatological prophet proclaiming the arrival of God's kingdom, that the resurrection had nothing to do with Jesus coming back to life, and that the affirmation that Jesus was divine first arose among his followers long after his death.

This bold and well-argued theory rescues the message and person of Jesus from the literalist absurdities of contemporary fundamentalism and recovers the social and ethical significance of what Jesus called the "kingdom of God." In making its case, the book leads the reader through the basics of modern Scripture scholarship, as well as the the development of christology within first-century Christianity. An excellent bibliography and an abundance of end-notes provide resources for further research on these and related topics.

The Daily Whiplash (6)

The pain killers are beginning to show their limitations. Or are they simply wearing off? There is some persistent flow between stiff nuisance and sharp pain that can be dulled by the pain killers, but never taken away. And now, after some ten days, in me there is a level of getting used and I feel the need to pick up normalcy again. While avoiding heavy lifting and long sittings, I am trying to engage life as I would normally have done.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Zencast - Right Effort

In the podcast about Right Effort Dharma teacher Gil Fronsdal suggests that right effort is putting in a minimum of effort. Do, whatever you do, without trying to achieve something. Do things as a matter of being, not as a matter of establishing, changing, struggle or whatever emphasis. I am paraphrasing a bit.

I went back to listen to this teaching, because it struck a really deep chord in me. Ever since I was a kid I was inclined to do exactly this. But I learned otherwise. Common sense dictates that you won't achieve something unless you put in effort. Real effort, sweat and toil and persevere and fall and stand up again. And the need to achieve endless amounts of things is above criticism. As much I internalized this, my deepest incentive was always to delicately dose my efforts. As soon as I felt I had to push, strive, sweat, trample others, force myself and such, I had a resentment. I had a feeling of engaging in something unwholesome. Thus I acquired a name of being lazy, of being an underachiever, a wishy washy giving in weak dork, and I thought of myself likewise.

Nevertheless the failures, I did manage to grow up and build my life and family and also a career. And there have always been exceptional moments of putting in great effort and achieving a lot, but somehow maintain the feeling I was not forcing anything, neither myself, nor others nor any state in the universe. The way Fronsdal defined right effort, no matter how counterintuitive, connected with this inclination deep in me and these experiences. It proves to me a great inspiration. If anything, it allows me to conduct my life in the way I naturally feel fits me, and not feel bad, guilty or inapt about it. To be, not to strive.

The Daily Whiplash (5)

Physiotherapy has been cruel on me again. In the early morning my therapist by the name of Bilhah, sort of gently stretched my neck and shoulders and had me leave the table slightly dizzy, but still optimistic. After an hour, however, pain started kicking in, as if I were a shell brutally pried open. And my friend ibuprofen was of little use. The right shoulder has proven to be particularly tenacious and I am typing this post with my left hand only.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Prescriptive and descriptive grammar

The August 22nd lecture "Prescriptive vs Descriptive Approaches to Grammar" by Dr. Amy Fountain, Adjunct Lecturer, Department of Linguistics, University of Arizona is the introduction to a linguistics lecture series that I found through iTunes U and is available as a podcast.

I used to be a stickler for rules in language. Not only in Dutch, also in English and Hebrew (and other languages I dabble in). Being explained in the is lecture the difference between prescriptive grammar (the stickler) and descriptive (whatever we find people use and passes for comprehensible and correct language), brightens up a whole area in my life. With regret I recall the useless discussions in my childhood whether a certain use of Dutch was correct or not. It was prescriptively incorrect en descriptively correct - nothing more nothing less. Could have thought of it myself, but never did.

So, I am going to go for more lectures. As opposed to what you might expect from a linguistic lecture, there is a lot of visuals going on. Even to the point of certain texts, sentences, words, shown in Dr. Fountain's power point and she doesn't even read them out loud to the poor podcast audience. A bit of a drawback that I will hope won't prove to be disastrous. Need not be.

The Daily Whiplash (4)

All in all, the situation is improving. I can clearly detect more pain-free time (even though this is with the maximum dose of ibuprofen) and when pains occur, they are less pervasive and really heavy only for short periods of time. The point is however, this is far from normal. I need to take the pain killers regularly in the highest allowed dose and must restrain from anything that demands effort from back or neck. And when I am doing fine, like today with another half day of feeling quite good, the strain on the back is apparently made without noticing, and there is relapse.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Speaking of Faith - Einstein and God

This is a two part radio program of APM (American Public Media) about Albert Einstein's metaphysics. The first is about God. The second is about Ethics. A transcript of the program is available. The broadcast was in March this year. Luckily the issues of Speaking of Faith are also delivered as a podcast.

In the first part, program lead Krista Tippett speaks with physicists Freeman Dyson and Paul Davies. I had to open my podcast molded mind to this radio molded podcast. Short interview snippets, music, leaders etc; the program is much more of an assemblage than a singular built up thinking arch. Funny to see how pure podcast invites such different broadcasting style.

The show ends with a quote from Einstein's writings:
I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals or would sit in judgment on creatures of His own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance, but for us, not for God.

By the way. I found these two parts thanks to a post in the open culture blog.

The Daily Whiplash (3)

My wife is running double and triple shifts. She is taking over much of the household stuff that I used to do or share with her, because I can't strain my back. Cooking, cleaning and bathing the kids. Then, I have had a couple of pain attacks that had me rolling in bed (or on the floor next to it) and she drove me to the Police and several other places. In short, she is making everything happen right now. Otherwise, a small accident would have brought our lives to a kind of stand still.

In the mean time the whiplash makes its rounds. I have had a couple of stretches with little pain again. One hour here, a couple of hours there and this coupled with some short but hefty attacks of excruciating pains. It's all in one bag.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Parashat Lekh Lekha

KMTT podcast proceeded this week with the Torah section in which Abraham is sent away from his land to settle in Canaan. Part of the tale is an epic about a battle in Siddim between Canaanite Kings lead by the king of Sodom and Mesopotamian kings. The battle is won by the Mesopotamians and as a result Lot, Abraham's nephew, who has settled with the Sodomites, loses his goods. Abraham comes to the rescue and wrests Lot's possessions from the enemy by chasing them north, all the way until Damascus.

The podcast tries to explain why this war and its consequences are part of the Torah and what is its meaning. Ramban and Rashi are the main sources.

But I was fascinated by a remark in the margin. Abraham is said to take 318 men with him on his chase north. Rabbi Waxman, who gives the talk, casually declares that this is not a bunch of men, but just Abraham and his servant Eliezer. My limited understanding is just enough why this is suggested. If you take the letters of Eliezer's name, and count their worth you arrive at 318: Aleph (1), Lamed (30), Yod (10), Ayin (70), Zayin (7), Resh (200). So I guess that is why this assumption is made.

IOT - Arabian nights

As a subject, the tales of 1001 nights, both as far as their content as what is their history concerned, are ideal for In Our Time. Not even a nervous guest such a Gerard van Gelder, Laudian Professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford, a Dutchman?, can ruin that. The tales are fantastic, their history is. And the way they are received by the west is filled with romanticism and fascination with the exotic orient.

It turns out, Arabic high culture is a bit less impressed. The tales are not of good language and considered to be mostly boorish and pulpish. What is more, is that it is anonymous - and that is not looked well upon. In spite of that all, the Arabian Nights is what entered into western culture out of the Arabic. And where did the Arabs get it from? An important question, as the Nights are a product of a lengthy tradtion.

IOT doesn't give a definitive answer, but what begins to emerge is a picture of constant cultural reception and exchange. How old Indian tales are received among the Persians, who give it its initial frame (with the princess Scheherazade) and then the tales of Baghdad. The earliest sources are already Arabian, from the early 9th century, but what makes it to Europe is the 15th century version which already received Turkish elements with gunpowder and coffee. The greatest irony is that because of the Western acclaim, the Nights are re-evaluated among Arabs. And so, out of a long tradition from east to west, the tales are now beginning to run eastwards back. And in any case are a wonderful witness to cultural diversity and exchange.

Dan Carlin's hardcore history #16

Dan Carlin admitted to be on a second take of the show, with show 16, about the Nazis. He was aware that when discussing the almost incomprehensible success of the Nazi raise to power he nearly slid into a talk of admiration. In the second take he managed to prevent that impression perfectly. Yet, he also managed at the same time, to analyze to person of Adolf Hitler and how this loser of a man, turned into the leader of a whole nation. His representation seems very convincing and succeeds in coherently explain the person of Hitler, as well as his ideas, ranging from the eugenetics, to the antisemitism, to the extreme nationalism and the way he lead Germany and the world into disaster. Very good show.

The daily Whiplash (2)

Yesterday was a very good day for the most part. With the help of pain killers I hardly had any pain at all until late in the afternoon. During those hours I managed to pick up the repaired car and get a whole lot of forms filled out for the insurance. I even managed to go out and have lunch with my wife. (In the Persian style restaurant Edna in Ramat HaSharon)

But then the old pains returned and this morning I am back to where I was on Wednesday and Tuesday. Still, I hope to take the half day of rather good health as a good sign. A sign of progress and recovery. I like to assume that the process is circular. Just as the pains come in waves and the stiffness. And the worst days were Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and not the immediate aftermath on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A level of feeling good such as Thursday, I hadn't had yet.

PS: Whiplash in Wikipedia.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Podcast monologue on Africa

The UC podcast gave an issue about Africa which has also been podcasted in the CFR series. Princeton N. Lyman, adjunct senior fellow for Africa policy studies, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) holds a talk about Africa. His monologue takes us beyond the crisis in the Sudan and civil war in the Congo. It touches upon democratization and economic development.

Princeton scratches the surface and is probably telling nothing more than an average reader of BBC news's Africa section would already know. It is just that many people, including myself, never read much in that section - if at all. So, it is a 15 minutes well spent. Lest this quarter of an hour not go lost, one should continue to follow, or read more.

Princeton recommend the book he co-authored and that supplied also the long and unwieldy title of the podcast: Beyond Humanitarianism: What You Need to Know About Africa and Why it Matters.

The daily Whiplash (1)

Today, Thursday, things are brightening up a bit. Until the day before yesterday I suffered tremendous pains. Yesterday pains were much less, but I felt groggy like a drunk. Today even that has improved. There is still a little pain, also after taking pain killers, but not the kind that drives one up the wall.

The feeling is only mildly miserable and mildly unstable. What remains an insufferable element of the party is the maze of bureaucracy. I have seen around eight doctors by now and am about to see at least three more and each one of them has his own quirks. In any case none of them has any time for me and the surrounding secretaries just as much as them act as if I am a nuisance, a disturbance and generally stand in their way onto infinitely more important, if not pleasurable activities, so what the hell am I doing here. Similarly works the insurance. The only pleasant exceptions were the Police and most of all the garage that repaired the car.

So far so good, I'll keep you posted.

Updated Audiobook podcasts from Openculture

Openculture left us a quick note to let you know that they “re-orged” the Audiobook Podcast Collection. The list, which had become a bit unwieldy, is now broken down by genre: Literature/Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry. And, within these categories, the texts are organized by the author’s name. Finally listed are also the Audiobook podcast sites.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

De Gaay Fortman

Het eerste marathon interview ooit, was in 1986 met W. F. de Gaay Fortman. Toen de VPRO de archieven opende en begon met de jaargang 1986 als podcast te publiceren, ontbrak het interview met de oude Gaay in de feed. Ik mailde dit aan de VPRO en enige tijd later kreeg ik het antwoord:
Geachte meneer De Vries,

Het had wat voeten in de aarde, maar het interview met De Gaay is weer aan de karousel toegevoegd. Als het goed is, komt ie binnenkort op uw iTunes binnen. Leuk dat u van de interviews geniet en ook dat u er zoveel aandacht aan besteedt op uw website.

Met vriendelijke groeten,

Anne-Will Fisser

Bij deze dan ook aandacht voor het interview met W. F. de Gaay Fortman. Het valt meteen op dat de interviewer John Jansen van Galen de eminentie tutoyeert, terwijl De Gaay er juist een punt van maakt dat men tegenwoordig (let wel, het is 1986) te informeel is. Hij heeft het over de voornamencultuur en zet zich er nadrukkelijk tegen af. Hij slaagt erin om dat op een respectabele manier te doen. Er spreekt geen overdadige hang naar vormelijkheid uit, maar een behoefte aan zakelijkheid. En het scheiden van zakelijk en prive.

Hoe zit het dan met Jansen van Galen? In het tweede uur wordt uitgelegd dat de twee heren elkaar al geruime tijd kennen en dat De Gaay het 'tutoyement' gevraagd heeft. Kortom, de oude Gaay, hoewel hem het conservatisme niet ontzegd kan worden, laat zich ook van zijn vooruitstrevende kant zien. Het resultaat is van een waardigheid die mij wel kan bekoren.

SRR 115: Existential-Humanistic Psychology

In the latest edition of Shrinkrapradio, Dr. Dave interviews Dr. Myrtle Heery. (Show #115). The introduction is such:
Myrtle Heery, Ph.D., M.F.T. is Associate Professor of Psychology, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California, and Adjunct Faculty at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California,. She has taught at both universities for eight years, mentoring masters and doctoral students of psychology, as well as organizing, sustaining, and leading groups. In addition, she is Director of the International Institute of Humanistic Studies through which she offers two-year training program nationally and internationally for helping professionals. This training leads to certification of in-depth communication in both individual and group settings. She gives day-long introductory trainings across the U.S. including Arizona, California, and Texas. She is in private practice in Petaluma, California leading consultation groups for therapists and seeing individuals, couples, and families, and leading annual retreats for mothers. Myrtle also volunteers for Petaluma hospice bereavement, helping individuals and leading groups. She has published papers and chapters in psychology journals and books on bereavement, existential-humanistic, and transpersonal psychotherapy and psychology. In addition, she was a contributing editor and published in the Yoga Journal and studied and taught extensively with James F. T. Bugental, Ph.D., first president of the Association of Humanistic Psychology.

Together with this professional introduction, Dr. Dave enters the interview also with a sound clip, from the interview, as an eavesdrop of what is yet to come. In that excerpt Myrtle says something about her near-death experience and what she thinks of the afterlife. This indicates the kind of intimacy and depth the interview will bring. She will also freely give details of an occurrence in which she heard voices. And all of this with educated analysis from existential, humanistic and transpersonal psychology.

Dr. Dave makes a very deep personal connection with her. This is when SRR is at its best. The two speakers enter into genuine conversation, more free of manipulation, boundaries and reserves than a regular interview. You do not even have to like psychology or appreciate David's and Myrtle' outlook on life. To listen in on their talk is a privilege. A true podcast treat. If you have some appreciation of an alternative outlook on life, this is truly inspiring.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Anne Frid de Vries

Ever since Friday the 12th, I am very occupied with recovering from being rear-ended. Frankly, more suffering than recovering. Lots of back pain, stiffness and constant headache and agony in the neck. I can't sit or stand of lie down for any more than a couple of minutes and then a whole myriad of inconvenient twitches make me move. I have done a round of pain killers and sort of figured out which one works best for me.

So that is where we are at and let's hope from here the fun will subside. What I wanted to share with you all, is what is all about the title of this blog: Anne is a man. I have been going through the mills of health care, insurance and police bureaucracy and invariably the question comes up: who is this Anne, whose form you are bringing with you? Well, that's me! Anne is a man?! Well, yes.

At the x-ray department of the Rabin Medical Center the head operator just wouldn't take my word for it. No, can't be. Anne is a woman and you are not going to be x-rayed. It took her computer assistant, after some time of bickering, to finally enter my ID into the computer system and enlarge the gender box: Anne is a man!

The tower of Babel

The KMTT podcast has returned to discussing the parashot hashavua (which went out of style around slichot up until after simchat tora). The first parasha is Noach. However, the lecture did not address the story of Noach, but rather a tiny section in the same parasha, the famous story of the tower of Babel. The story has the makings of a sin and its punishment, the question is raised, what exactly was the sin and why this punishment?

The first interpretation is that the city-builders wanted to build their tower in order to defy god. In a way the tower then became a kind of siege tower. They united in order to place themselves over god and god reacted by fundamentally breaking their union, through diversifying their language.

The second interpretation is that by building a city, they created a place to flock together. God's intention with the creation is, however, that man would spread out over the face of the earth. In that sense, the city building and as culminating part of that process the tower building, was not as much a sin, but rather an error. And the reaction of god, to diversify the language, was much less a punishment, than a measure to ensure the spreading out of the peoples.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The environment in educational podcasts

On the occasion of blog action day for the environment, I would like to point you to a number of podcasts where the environment is being discussed, or the implications of the topic are relevant for the environment.

The first podcast I want to point you to is the incomparable University Channel Podcast. This a collection of academic lectures from all over the world, a wide variety of institutions and subjects. One of the subjects that recently has had a lot of attention is the world energy crisis. The most recent one is titled: Facing the Hard Truths About Energy; Lee R. Raymond, Former Chairman and CEO, ExxonMobil Corporation; Chair, National Petroleum Council.

A lot of background knowledge is required in order to grasp and effectively deal with the environmental problems. Berkeley University offers a number of courses that can be helpful. Among others is my favorite Descriptive Introduction to Physics, by Richard Muller. This course is also affectionately known as Physics for future Presidents. And since I am neither a physicist nor a president, I like to call it Physics on an academic level for students of all kinds.

Apart from all the technicalities, let us not forget, that effective dealing with the environment will also require a psychological pendent. We need to change our mentality, our consciousness and our outlook on life. In this respect Shrinkrapradio has much to offer. We talk consumerism, ecological consciousness and more.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Israel, Iran, terrorism (UC podcast)

The University Channel podcast titled Israel, Iran, and the Future of Terrorism, a lecture given April 23, 2007 at Middlebury College, is not about Iran during the lecture at all. Only when the question section comes up, we have some addressing of Iran. Until then, guest speaker Jeffrey Goldberg speaks only about Israel and the Palestinians. And if you are capable of standing his tangents, the lecture is actually very good and truly inspiring.

The question section, however is not enhanced with a microphone in the audience, so it is the lecture that remains the best bit.

Jeffery Goldberg relates his immensely fascinating experiences with the Palestinians, both as an Israeli prison guard as well as as a journalist and an individual who maintained his relationship with certain Palestinians through these episodes fulfilling the roles of warden and reporter. From the area, I can agree with his analysis as well as the optimist as the pessimist ones. Once again a very good UC podcast on the Middle East.

Interview Vrijdag podcast: Uri Rosenthal

Op technisch niveau is er heel veel mis met de podcast van de VPRO Interview vrijdag. Het zal allemaal te maken hebben met de hoeveelheid middelen die de VPRO in zo'n produkt kan steken, maar als luisteraar zit je er maar mooi mee. Je krijgt een integrale uitzending, inclusief overbodige nieuwsflitsen en reclameblokken. Daarbij is de doorgegeven informatie ook niet correct. Wordt er gezegd dat we een interview met Uri Rosenthal krijgen, blijkt het een panel discussie met Rosenthal en anderen (onder meer Paul Cliteur) over de beveiliging van Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ook interessant, maar niet wat er op de verpakking staat. En hoeveel kost het nou om daar wat aan te doen.

Goed, we hebben het dus over Ayaan. Persoonlijk kan ik die discussies niet goed velen omdat de Nederlandse lulligheid weer danig opspeelt. Gelukkig hebben Paul Cliteur en Uri Rosenthal in ieder geval geen goed woord over voor de volslagen stupide en wel heel erg gevaarlijke opmerking dat sommige mensen het er ook wel naar maken. Alleen al daarom zou ze zelf die beveiliging op zich moeten nemen? Zo kan je de vrijheid van meningsuiting ook inperken. Zonder dat de staat het zelf doet, maar door allerlei tuig dat zich van bedreigingen bedient een vrijbrief te verschaffen.

Maar eigenlijk vind ik in principe de discussie al heel bedenkelijk. Ik heb niet alles gevolgd, maar ik mis toch wel het uitgangspunt: wie ergens aan begint moet het afmaken ook. De Nederlandse staat heeft gemeend dat Ali beveiliging nodig heeft, dan moet je niet opeens ophouden wanneer de dreigin er nog steeds is. Oh valt het tegen? Blijkt het allemaal wel erg duur? Ja jammer dan, helaas houden terroristen geen rekening met de armoede van een geplaagd land als Nederland.

Ook vind ik de voortdurende verwijzing naar de VS heel bedenkelijk. OK, ze doen het daar anders, maar betekent dat a prima facie dat wij het dan ook zo moeten doen? Dat is een autoriteitsargument. Ach, waar het eigenlijk om draait en waar men niet eerlijk voor uit durft te komen dat zijn de kosten, alsmede een soort Ayaanmoeheid. Dat laatste is wel heel erg als het relevant mag zijn en dat eerste, wanneer eenmaal helder, ontmaskert de Nederlandse mentaliteit ook heel nadrukkelijk. We hebben graag de mond vol over allerlei principes, maar krabbelen wel heel schielijk terug als het opeens wat meer inzet vergt.

In Our Time on the Divine Right of Kings

In Our Time discusses the Divine Right of Kings and has me a bit puzzled still at the end. Maybe I was less concentrated, but somehow I missed the connection between the political theory and the mystical asset that the king was supposed to be able to heal by touch.

In any case, on the political side, it is interesting to learn how the divine right, the idea of a monarchy in a sort of absolute, directly derived from God, sense, is rather a Protestant idea than a Catholic one. King James I of England wrote about it and his ideas are explained on the show as well as the follow up.

On the subject of the alleged healing powers of the King, I found it funny and yet understandably, the kings generally seemed not to have liked this. It involved touching people. At the same time and when monarchy was successful with the people, these touch rituals turned into huge crowded events. The king touched thousands of people in one occasion. Makes sense in a way. I mean, if you think up some sort of absolute monarchy, the monarch turns to be rather distanced from the ruled and can easily become unpopular. Hence you need these grotesque rituals to compensate. My idea, this is, not from this excellent history podcast's educated guests.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Even the tiniest of accidents...

On Friday I was in a rear-end collision. I stopped before a crossing to let some children pass the street. My kids were in the car as I had just collected them from school and daycare. The pedestrians had nearly finished crossing the street when someone banged into us from behind. It was about noon. We were to spend the rest of the day dealing with the results of what is by all standards a minute accident. And still.

The impact from behind had me groggy for a couple of seconds and then, in a haze I exchanged details with the other driver. I glanced my kids in the back and saw them sweating (it was a hot midday) and anxiously, but passively eying me in return. I got home and proceeded phoning insurance, after having made sure the kids were more or less all right and had something to eat and to drink. Fortunately my wife arrived soon afterwards and she took us to the hospital for a check up. By the evening we were all declared healthy. Though my oldest was complaining about headache and I was aching all over my spine up to my head and stiff all over.

My youngest cannot talk yet, so it is hard to tell what effect the collision has had on him. He has been a bit restless and crying abnormally, both on Friday and on Shabbat. On Shabbat the headaches of my oldest subsided, though I myself continued to ache. Pain killers proved some relief, but still it has been hard for me to stay in any position (sitting, lying, standing; whatever) for any time over minute. I also have a hard time concentrating on reading or listening to podcasts - now that is a blow.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Shrinkrap and other podcasters

Podcast David van Nuys (aka Shrinkrap) went to the Podcast and New Media Expo in Southern California in stead of sitting at home making new episodes for Shrinkrapradio or Wise Counsel. In order to maintain his output rate, he took his recording equipment with him and interviewed a charming collection of other podcasters on the conference spot.

The best interview is immediately at the beginning. Dave speak with Doug Kaye from The Conversations Network. He describes how he set up a non-profit organization and mad a point of collecting content for podcasts in the realm of institutions that would only work with non-profit organizations. He turns their audio into podcasts, thus making public conferences, lecture series and the like. His idea is that there is a value curve. A media consumer will want to listen to content that really matters for him and stick to that very loyally. So he wants to give that kind of content, even if that doesn't bring in a big listenership. What is the point is the value it represents to the listeners.

Other podcasters that are featured are from Trucker Tom, The Book of Life, Divacast, Podchick and more.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Open culture blog

This is a great blog discovery. The blog is called Open Culture, concentrates on all quality culture expressions (web or not) and is updated daily. One of the good things is their guide to podcasts. They even supply a list of recommended educational podcasts - always very valuable. Podcast articles and resources is actually one of the blogging categories.

Here are some of their articles that contain lists:
Here is what they write about themselves:
Open Culture explores cultural and educational media (podcasts, videos, online courses, etc.) that’s freely available on the web, and that makes learning dynamic, productive, and fun. We sift through all the media, highlight the good and jettison the bad, and centralize it in one place. Trust us, you’ll find engaging content here that will keep you learning and sharp. And you will find it much more efficiently than if you spend your time searching with Google, Yahoo or iTunes.

Ronald van den Boogaard interviewt Ina Muller-van Ast

Weer een goed interview uit de archieven van VPRO's Marathon Interview. In het jaar 1989 sprak Ronald van den Boogaard met PvdA kamerlid Ina Muller-van Ast. Doorgaans moet ik niets hebben van interviews met politici. Ik heb daarover al twee keer geklaagd in verband met Niko Koffeman. Politici zijn zo druk met hun imago en zo akelig goed bewust van hoe ze overkomen, dat alles wat er in een interview gebeurd te gepolijst, te bestudeerd, te geregisseerd eruitkomt. En als het niet het zelfbewust ego is dat de boel in de hand houdt, dan is het wel de partijdiscipline of de hete adem van de opiniepeilers en de grootste gemene deler van de kiezers, ingebeeld of niet.

Het contrast met Ina Muller kon niet groter zijn. Ik herinner me geen andere politici van haar kaliber en ik maak me geen illusies dat in de moderne, meer dan ooit door media gelikte tijd nog een politica als zij kan opstaan. Luister naar het interview en je snapt wat ik bedoel. Ze zegt waar het op staat. Ze staat voor haar principes en is zelfs transparant, wanneer Ronald haar dwingt te laten zien waar ze in onderhandelingen wil toegeven.

Nog mooier wordt het wanneer de emoties gaan meespelen. Wanneer ze volschiet als ze over Joop den Uyl vertelt. Uit haar slof schiet over Lubbers en Ruding. Ja zelfs de kiezer wordt niet gespaard. Waar zal je dat ooit zien? Een politicus die de kiezer aanpakt? Eigen schuld, moet je maar nadenken bij het stemmen. Ik heb geen nostalgie naar die tijd, zeker niet als je haar over de zaken hoort praten die eind jaren tachtig speelden, maar het is wel jammer dat het het interview zo gedateerd maakt. En het type van Muller des te meer. Of sterker nog: niet van deze wereld, want ook toen week ze af.