Cuba’s (In)justice

From the LA Times, linked below:

Amnesty International had counted 55 “prisoners of conscience” in Cuban jails — make that 54 now. A Human Rights Watch report on Cuban prisoners last year documented how those who criticize the government or report violations are subjected to extended periods of solitary confinement and beatings and denied medical treatment, family visits and telephone calls. Human Rights Watch documented dozens of cases in which prison officials physically abused and humiliated political prisoners. Prison authorities routinely subjected them to solitary confinement in cells described as cramped, squalid, without bedding — some in total darkness, others with permanent bright lights — and provided rotting, inadequate food at irregular intervals.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR25/002/2004/en/308bf23e-d648-11dd-ab95-a13b602c0642/amr250022004en.html

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-cuba1-2010mar01,0,1293571.story

http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/02/black_civil_rights_activist_mu.html

I am thankful that unlike Cuba, my country gives me the freedom to dissent. This man is dead for protesting an abusive government. Not fair!

The Informant!

Was never sure exactly what was happening. It is essentially in the form of a documentary, ruled by dialog and Matt Damon’s voice-overs. Matt is a very convincing character actor. Never sure whether to laugh at him or with him. Polite or awkward chuckles much more often than laugh-out-loud moments. Thick irony, someone being so intelligent and so clueless at once. He seems to honestly believe he is a hero in a movie, like Tom Cruise in “The Firm”; playing at being such a character is discordant with real life.

I imagine this will be more funny the second time than the first, if I ever get around to watching it again. But in my opinion, it was a dud as a date movie.

Child Marriage Is Child Abuse

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/09/14/yemen.childbirth.death/index.html

A 12-year-old Yemeni girl, who was forced into marriage, died during a painful childbirth that also killed her baby, a children’s rights group said Monday.
Nujood Ali was also forced into an arranged marriage. She made headlines in 2008 when she divorced at 10.

Fawziya Ammodi struggled for three days in labor, before dying of severe bleeding…

Public Enemies

John Dillinger’s story holds a particular interest for me. We live near where he “worked” and I taught a class one summer at Indiana State Prison which seems proud to own him as a legendary foe.

Right or wrong, Dillinger was something of a folk hero from the start. A gentleman robber with a dash of class, ingenuity, and an interest more in fun than violence seems a sure-fire spark for the American imagination. A guilty pleasure, watching a larger than life figure blast his way through obstacles and engineer heists and escapes.

Good: often the camera work brings the story to life and transports you back in time to experience it. Johnny Depp et alia are as fantastic as one could expect and are aided by cars, costumes, guns, and fun all around. Numerous great quotes and moments, some poignant, some laugh-out-loud.

Bad: the camera work is sometimes terrible. This is a Michael Mann film (remember Heat?). This means the actors use their guns convincingly and the sets are beyond detailed. But once in a while (example: at least once during the shootout in Wisconsin) I fully expected to hear the director yell “cut!” and realize I was watching a documentary about the film, not the polished final version of the film itself.

Personal Complaint: Again, this is a Mann film. Why so many historical inaccuracies? Immerse me in actual detail, Mann. Come one, bore me just a little here and there with realism. I expect it from you! And why do filmmakers keep using J. Edgar Hoover as a predictable, cheap punchline to no joke? I suspect the real Hoover was simply a cardboard cutout kindly¬† invented by the FBI for the sole purpose of 2-d movie usage by subsequent generations. Last, why retell the story such that lawmen seem to have no redeeming qualities and Dillinger seems completely sympathetic? For example, in the movie, Dillinger seems completely faithful and taken by his true love yet in real life he was killed in the company of prostitues. The movie almost seems to be trying for an analogy to Bush-era torture policy, showing inhumane interrogation of a prisoner in agony, or having a cartoonish G-man slapping a woman around, while seemingly ignoring any consequence of Dillinger’s behavior. Perhaps nobody of value ever felt slighted by Dillinger, not even the families of those killed during his heists and escapes.

In the end, this is more story-telling than history-telling with actual truth and consequences. Nonetheless, it’s fun, it’s well acted and it’s more worth your hard-earned dollars than most of the other films out there.

Nefertiti by Nick Drake

Just finished Nefertiti by Nick Drake.

Known archaeological artifacts and places are nicely woven into the story. Amarna, the tombs, the houses and walls, implements, cosmetics, toys, food and drink, boats, the river, animals, scrolls and the scriptorium and offices, the bust with one eye complete – he brings these to life. Being immersed in the physical place of ancient Egypt was worth the read.

The politics are very intriguing. What must have happened amongst the royalty and the priesthood in this amazing culture when Akhenaten tried to replace polytheism with monotheism? And what happened to Nefertiti? The problem with Drake’s characters is that they use Modern Western thinking and idioms. He knows the word Ma’at, even used it at least once. But his hero prefers the chaos and disorderly life of the streets and all the intelligent players have motivations indistinguishable from Modern skeptical atheists. The Modern worldview of his characters was a constant distraction.

His plot is interesting but requires a deus ex machina; I find it almost impossible to believe the historical Egyptians would have responded as written by Drake to its intrusion. He smoothly introduced a number of characters, some of whom become important and some who remain minor.

His strength seems to me to be weaving historical artifacts into an interesting tale. His weakness seems to appreciating an ancient worldview and creating characters and motivations that depend on it.

Aging Is Like Contractions

When my son was born ten years ago, we learned in Lamaze class that you can either fight contractions or work with them. They hurt and the temptation is to fight them but that only makes it worse. Work with them and they will work with you. Surf the wave, so to speak. Of course, all this is academic to me; it was not so for my wife!

Aging is like this, perhaps. I do not want to turn 36 this year, nor 40 in 4 years. I do not look forward to my son growing up and leaving home. But I can fight the milestones, feeling that I have not done enough to prepare. Or I can surf the wave. Plan for it, expect it, work with it.

C# Quotes in string literals

From http://weblogs.asp.net/lorenh/archive/2004/09/30/236134.aspx

Below is copied directly from him:

C# 101 – Representing a double quote in string literals

I’m sure almost every C# developer already knew this, but I thought a post might help the few that didn’t. I had always wondered how it was done and stumbled across it yesterday buried in an example in the C# Language Specification.

If you want to represent a double quote in a string literal, the escape sequence is two double quotes.

string myString = @"<xml attribute=""my attribute""/>";

I have found this useful for storing nicely formatted XML fragments in constants without resorting to 1) putting it all on one long line without string literals or 2) loading from a file or resource or 3) concatenating at run time, or 4) switching to single quotes.

private const string requestXml =
@”<?xml version=””1.0″” encoding=””utf-8″”?>
<soap:Envelope
xmlns:xsi=””
http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance“”
xmlns:xsd=””
http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema“”
xmlns:soap=””
http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/soap/envelope/“”>
<soap:Body>
<ForceBuild xmlns=””
http://tempuri.org/“”>
<projectName><![CDATA[{0}]]></projectName>
</ForceBuild>
</soap:Body>
</soap:Envelope>”;

Now I know.

“Child Marriage” is child abuse

Wajeha al-Huwaider, co-founder of the Society of Defending Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia, told CNN that achieving human rights in the kingdom means standing against those who want to “keep us backward and in the dark ages.”

She said the marriages cause girls to “lose their sense of security and safety. Also, it destroys their feeling of being loved and nurtured. It causes them a lifetime of psychological problems and severe depression.”

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/04/12/saudi.child.marriage/index.html

No poor among you

Never noticed this verse before. I had always thought that “the poor you will always have with you.” But Deut 15:4 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy%2015:4%20;&version=31;) seems to imply that God’s plan in the OT would have included a society with no poor people. That didn’t seem to work out – it seems we always find a way to mess things up. I don’t really have a point here, just thought this verse was interesting.

Sacred Sorrow

Trauma and Psychotherapy class is most excellent. The prof has a focus on, I don’t know how to say it, finding God in the middle of profound suffering, perhaps?

Michael Card’s book “A Sacred Sorrow” is a great book. Love the image of the words of lament being surprisingly sweet. He also talks about God’s “hesed” and limns an image of the vav adversative in the Psalms being a flag flying in an easterly breeze, marking the line from a focus on self and suffering to a disjunctive view from faith that God is here (presence) and faithful, loving, good (hesed). Good stuff.

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