Archive for Culture

Random Thought

Dave Killion — May 16, 2013

At some point, autonomous vehicles will create traffic that will be simply beyond the ability of human reflexes to negotiate. Long before that occurs, people will be prohibited from operating vehicles in most places. I wasn’t much bothered by that, until I put my motorcycle back on the road for this season. The thought that people won’t be able to commute by motorcycle makes me a little sad. But, the market delivers, and perhaps autonomous vehicles will be so much fun that they will somehow more than make up for whatever we have to give up.

“Still Mine”

Dave Killion — May 14, 2013

 

How have I not heard of this film! Here’s the synopsis

“Based on true events and laced with wry humour, STILL MINE is a heartfelt love story about an 89-year-old New Brunswicker (James Cromwell) who comes up against the system when he sets out to build a more suitable house for his wife (Geneviève Bujold) whose memory is starting to go. Although Craig Morrison is using the same methods his father, a shipbuilder, taught him, times have changed. Craig quickly gets on the wrong side of an overzealous government inspector, who finds just about everything unacceptable, including the unstamped wood Craig has milled from his own trees. As Irene becomes increasingly ill – and amidst a series of stop-work orders – Craig races to finish the house. Hauled into court and facing jail, Craig takes a final stance.”

This just has ‘libertarian’ written all over it! It’s showing in Victoria, which means it might be showing in your town, too. Is it any good? I can’t say, but the reviewers at Tribute.ca love it. If you’ve seen it, please comment and let us all know.

Making Crawling Easier

Dave Killion — May 13, 2013

On the last episode I saw of The Stossel Show, author Lenore Skenazy (“Free Range Kids“) did something that had me racing to her blog

” When I go around giving my Free-Range Kids lectures, at some point I hold up a pair of little knit things that look like mini sweat bands and I ask the audience, “What are these?” And when I finally inform them, “Baby knee pads,” they shriek in disbelief. (At least, the ones who aren’t shrieking, “My mother-in-law just gave us those!”)

Since when do kids need knee pads to crawl safely? Aren’t babies born with built-in knee pads called “baby fat”? Isn’t that why their knees adorably dimple?”

Full post here. If, like me, you think baby knee pads are something that few parents would be interested in, I encourage you to do an internet search on them. You will find they are widely offered.

If ever there was a metaphor for the way our culture deals with difficulty, baby knee pads is it. There are a symbol of the way that every challenge is softened, every adversity removed. What are the effects of this sort of molly-coddling? I can’t say for sure, but so long as crawling is made more comfortable, the longer I would expect a baby to crawl. This is not the sort of product in which I expect libertarians to be very interested. We much rather people learn to stand on their own two feet.

A Libertarian Cycles Around Taiwan

Dave Killion — May 12, 2013

One of my minors at university was in Chinese studies, and earlier in my life I lived in Taiwan for a few months. Naturally, I was very interested and excited to see a travel article about Taiwan in the digital version of “Liberty“, a libertarian magazine. Here is an excerpt –

“Everyone in the bank turned to look at the westerner with the biking helmet. In response to the door guard’s inquiry, I pulled out a US $100 bill to indicate I wanted to change currency. The entire staff rolled their eyes and threw up their arms — not in an off-putting manner, but rather in an inclusive “we’re-all-going-to-share-a-root-canal-at-closing-time-and-we’re-going-to-pull-together-and-actually-have-fun.”

A teller ushered me to a seat, placed a cup of tea in my hands, and indicated that I should wait. Two minutes later the manager brought me a snack and tried to engage me. Placing my fists close to each other, I rotated them to duplicate the motion of pedaling a bike, uttered “Taiwan”, and signed an oval in the air to say that I was biking around Taiwan. The staff erupted in smiles, hung haos(very good), and thumbs up. More tea, more snacks, more encouraging glances, more waiting.

Twenty minutes later, only the foreign exchange teller was engaged — with what looked like an Indonesian lady. When she stood up, he motioned me over. I handed him my passport and counted out $400 US in $50 and $100 bills. He scrutinized the passport, including the tourist visa stamped in the back, and then the US money, first separating the denominations, then collating the bills. He rejected three $50 bills: two that were well-worn and one that was brand new, saying in English, “too old.” So I gave him one more $100 bill, which he accepted. He counted the money — twice — wrote down the amount, and asked for my confirmation. Then he stood up and approached the vault.

I got the impression that this bank branch had little experience with US money and had never seen a US $50 bill. While waiting for his return, various tellers brought more tea, more snacks, and more friendly attempts to communicate. One snack consisted of dry, pickled prunes, the pits of which I needed to spit out. The attractive teller who’d offered them to me was well aware that she might be pushing the limits of a westerner’s tastes, and so was expectantly attentive to my reaction. She pulled a handkerchief from her purse, put it on her palm and indicated that I should spit the pit onto it. Apprehensive that spitting into her hand might cross some sort of intimacy line, I hesitated. She understood perfectly well and reassured me by repeating “is OK, OK.”

The whole thing is delightful, and written from a libertarian’s perspective. Enjoy!

Taking Advantage Of Falling Fertility Rates

Dave Killion — April 27, 2013

Cherokee Gothic has a post up about ‘A Singaporean Strategy for Increasing the Fertility Rate‘ –

“So what did the SDU try?

1. “Increased financial incentives to encourage bigger families, amounting to cash gifts of S$3000 (US$1889) for the first child and savings of up to S$18,000 each for the third and fourth child.”

2. Tax rebates

3. Tax cuts on maids plus more childcare and maternity benefits.

4. “Offer graduate women with three children priority in securing places at the top nursery schools, an advantage in helping children get ahead at school, university and in the workplace.”

5. Set up “love cruises” for singles!

6. “Speed-dating and online dating services, along with an agony aunt called Dr Love.”

Somehow all of those awesome ideas didn’t make Singaporean couples want to procreate.  So now the government has paired up with Mentos (huh?) to urge citizens to do their patriotic duty and make babies on “National Night.”  You truly cannot make this stuff up.”

He concludes by asking the same thing any libertarian would ask –

“I guess just allowing more young people to immigrate there is out of the question?”

All of this reminds me of a previous post in which I listed ways in which an individual libertarian can help make the world a little more libertarian. Now that many advanced countries are seeing declining birth rates, and an easing of immigration restrictions will likely result, I think I will add to that list a recommendation that those of you looking for love cast your eyes abroad for libertarian partners. If you live in Canada or the U.S., you are a more desirable mate to someone living in a less wonderful place, and if the person you’re wooing is libertarian, you are way ahead knowing that he/she is at least as smart, well-informed, and open-minded as you are. And of course, if any of you try this out, please let me know how it works, and make sure to invite me to the wedding.

 

Family Time

Dave Killion — April 23, 2013

My son and I are going to go see “Oblivion” tonight, so I won’t have time to compose anything original, but here’s a brief-and-interesting review of the film for you –

“What will we do when earth is no longer habitable, either because of environmental pollution or because of an annihilating war? Several films this season imagine a dystopian future in which humans have to leave the earth to survive: Oblivion, with Tom Cruise; After Earth, with Will Smith; and Elysium, with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. All have seemed promising. The first to be released is Oblivion, and it is satisfying in all the ways you want a film to satisfy — the acting is good, the special effects are thrilling, and the story is meaty enough to maintain the interest of philosophical viewers.”

And Tuesday’s are cheap movie night! The rest of the review is here.

No, I’m Just Happy To See You

Dave Killion — April 21, 2013

Happy news in the U.S., as anti-rights Senators were unable to assemble enough votes to attain the super-majority required to pass gun-control legislation. This led to some very emotional responses by supporters of the legislation, in which opponents of the proposal have been attacked with every sort of ad hominem. This is nothing new. For example, consider this passage from a recent article –

“You won’t find anyone willing to dare say it much in the media, but a good percentage of the white men who oppose gun control of any sort – and who back measures that would even allow alleged terrorists and straw purchases for drug dealers to buy guns – are just afraid that without their guns, their phallic power will be reduced to size.   

You can feel at least temporarily reassured when a long-barreled assault weapon compensates for just another average manhood; it’s an irresistable testosterone high to the beleaguered white male.”

I am a white male, and there are a few very kind, generous women in this world who can confirm that it is only my visible appendages that are larger than average. Does this count as beleaguered? One is uncertain. This much I know: although I have a couple of long guns that would certainly bolster my sense of phallic power (were it lacking), I also have a couple pieces so weak-kneed that I would hesitate to shoot anybody with them for fear they might notice, became angry, and kick my ass.

More importantly, I’ve heard variations on this argument long enough to know they always come from a predictable type, and that type is always waaaay more concerned with the size of my genitalia than I am. Instead of wasting time accusing decent people of compensating, I think they would be better served examining their own tendencies toward projection and penis envy.

Bad Advice Can Come From Trusted Sources

Dave Killion — April 16, 2013

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For those who don’t know him, this is Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist. Dr. Tyson spends a lot of time presenting science-related material to laypersons; think Bill Nye the Science Guy, but more serious. As a result of his success and popularity in that pursuit, Dr. Tyson is often treated as an authority on non-science matters, such as government. The result, well, you see above; inane rhetoric treated as serious and profound. Obviously, no one studies science or engineering because they want to run for office, and when voters are evaluating a candidate’s background, I doubt they consider degrees in mathematics or technology to be assets. And from the nonsense I’ve heard from the mouths of scientists who comment on public policy, the less of their statist foolishness, the better.

That said, although those from STEM fields might not make good contenders for congress or parliament, I don’t doubt the political field could be much improved by some diversity. Replace some of those lawyers with historians or economists, and we might be all the better for it. Until then, though, I suggest one consider political advice given by celebrities carefully before embracing it, even when that celebrity is a scientist.

Canadian Perception Of Americans Somewhat Flawed

Dave Killion — April 15, 2013

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The Canadian identity, depending so much as it does on being ‘not-American’, means that any American living in Canada (as I do) will be repeatedly subject to stories intended to demonstrate the overall inferiority of the U.S. and Americans to Canada and Canadians. Having lived about 25 years each in both Canada and the U.S., I can assure anyone who believes otherwise that the difference between the groups is much less than that within the groups. But when people want to believe something, we often will too readily accept whatever feeds our biases.

A good example are anecdotes concerning the practice of some Americans traveling abroad of sewing a Canadian flag to their backpacks, in an effort to elicit better treatment. Canadians like this story, because Canadians like being preferred over Americans. But on another level, it conveys something lovely about America, and that is that although some Americans may feel they need to disguise their identities to evade prejudice in other countries, one never hears of foreigners needing to travel under false flags while in the U.S. If there is such a thing as national character, Americans can certainly claim open-heartedness and tolerance as part of theirs.

Libertarian Fashion Apparel

Dave Killion — March 26, 2013

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In Eugène Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading The People’, Liberty is depicted wearing a Phrygian cap. From Wikipedia –

“The Phrygian cap is a soft conical cap with the top pulled forward, associated in antiquity with the inhabitants of Phrygia, a region of central Anatolia. In the western provinces of the Roman Empire it came to signify freedom and the pursuit of liberty, perhaps through a confusion with the pileus, the felt cap of manumitted (emancipated) slaves of ancient Rome. Accordingly, the Phrygian cap is sometimes called a liberty cap; in artistic representations it signifies freedom and the pursuit of liberty.” 

Reviving the Phrygian cap as a fashion statement may prove a challenge, given its modern depiction as Smurf apparel, however, the truly determined can find patterns here, or buy one ready-made here and here. In any case, should you acquire a liberty cap only to find it doesn’t suit you, simply mount it atop a flagstaff to create a liberty pole. Either way, you have a guaranteed conversation piece, and yet another means by which to spread the libertarian philosophy.