Review: Loving Day

Loving Day
Loving Day by Mat Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A satirical jab at identity. Like so main character and many supporting ones, I am mixed. Am I black? According to One Drop laws, absolutely yes. According to some black people, yes. According to other black people, not enough. There are similar mixed messages from other peoples. Plenty think I am from the Middle East, Latin America, India, or other location where there people with brown skin. A reason why I like the term Mixed-Race is because it implies all mixed up and jumbled to an incoherent mess.

Mat captures this feeling better than most books I have read about mixed racial identity. The hyperbolic satire cuts deep. Maybe too deep to be very comfortable with the novel. In the end, I am pleased my friend Nikki asked me to read it because I happen to have needed to about now.

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Well Fed and Housed

Michelle Obama: I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.

Bill O’Reilly: Slaves that worked there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802.

If he used a weasel word like “some” to say slaves had relatively decent treatment, then I would be okay with what he said. One of those who worked on the Capitol building, Philip Reid, was paid $1.25 a day but only on Sunday (the other six days his owner received pay for his work). Once freed due to Lincoln, this same man was a highly sought after craftsman. Because of his high desirability, he probably was well treated. Others building in DC with sought after skills probably were also pretty well treated.

But, those slaves doing the worst jobs probably got terrible treatment. Both are common narratives in stories about slavery. Those serving in the house or providing special skills were clean, well fed, and slept in nice houses. Those serving in the fields were dirty, barely subsisting, and slept in terrible conditions.

As an eye witness Abigail Adams observed in a letter slaves working on the White House were so malnourished and weak 2 Northern whites could do the work of 12 slaves. My 2nd cousin 8x removed, John C. Calhoun, was a great defender of slavery describing owners and caretakers of those who would otherwise be destitute. The story that slaves had good lives is a popular propaganda of those  who lovingly long for the South to return to its great glory. Dylann Roof’s manifesto contained writings about how slaves positively viewed their lives under it. So I read the Georgia narratives and found the opposite.

Let’s say they were well treated…

  1. They were still slaves.
  2. Meaning, they were still considered less than a full person at 3/5ths.
  3. As slaves they were still forced to work for the benefit of others not themselves.
  4. As slaves they had no option to decide they would rather do something else.

Pretty sure if I made Bill my slave, then he would be constantly trying to escape like Kunta Kinte to the point of needing to torture him and chop off part of his foot to hobble him. He would ungratefully do this even though I would feed him well and set him up in a nice house. He would bristle under not being free. He talks lots and lots about how great are the Bill of Rights because he appreciates freedom. Even if a slave owner treats the slaves well, they are… still. not. free.

Not all slave owners were terrible people. At least, a few slave narratives of blacks I read revealed some thought their owners treated them better than most did. The common narrative from the worst to the best is they were all still were glad to receive their freedom. Even those who found their circumstances onerous during Great Depression were thankful to be free.

What Bill said though is dog whistle politics. The underlying coded language here is that blacks were better off under slavery than they are now. Freeing my ancestors was a mistake because we could be still benefiting under that vile institution as slaves instead of what we have today. Those Southern conservatives who dream the South Will Rise Again ate that up and totally agree with him. A couple Confederate fanboy blogs I read yesterday even lament that Bill was not more explicit about what he meant.

Crossing Paths

My introversion is strong, so I feel the need to spend time alone to recharge my batteries. That does not mean I hate people. That is my elitism and narcissism.

I do recognize the benefits of meeting new people, especially the complete stranger phenomenon described in Crossing Paths:

Sometimes a complete stranger can answer our questions and give us insight with an inspirational direction.

For instance, the person who posted this is a woman I met at a friend’s cocktail party. She was talking with another friend about something to which I offered my experiences which she found amazingly helpful. Sometimes such an encounter helps connect dots for myself. I have quite a collection of such people in email contacts (pre-Facebook) and throughout social media.

Conferences are a great way to locate such people and professionally grow. Though anywhere one finds like-minded people headed in the same direction makes finding such people easy. Truly random encounters such as airports, restaurants, or grocery store are even more special.

I often use my time out in public alone to read. My brain often attempts to multitask by listening for terms of interest. When I hear something, I shift to focusing on the conversation. And, if I feel up to it, then I will interject something. The other day, I was waiting on my car and overheard to graduate students talking about a class and one stumbled around why she thought maybe the professor seemed unprepared was due to it being summer. The other was not getting it, so I simply said “Summer 2 is 8 weeks when the Fall is 15 weeks.”

The real point of “Crossing Paths” is that negative people make us stronger because “love, selflessness, and kindness” for difficult people grows us. That’s true too.

Why you think you’re right — even if you’re wrong

Motivated Reasoning aka soldier mindset:

This phenomenon in which our unconscious motivations (our desires and fears) shape the way we interpret information. So some information and ideas feel like our allies and we want them to win. We want to defend them. And other information and ideas are the enemy. We want to shoot them down.

Scout mindset shows curious, open to ideas, grounded. Willing to change one’s mind based on new information. We need to proud of having changed our mind when new data shows us to have been wrong.

If the above video does not work, then try Julia Galef: Why you think you’re right — even if you’re wrong.

Review: Crash Go The Chariots: An Alternative To “Chariots Of The Gods”?


Crash Go The Chariots: An Alternative To “Chariots Of The Gods”? by Clifford A. Wilson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wilson challenges the evidence presented in Chariots of The Gods. As scary as Chariots was, Crash seems to fall on its face in similar ways. Ad hominems and non-sequiturs abound. At the end, it even goes way off topic to claim the evils of the ancients are the result of Satan operating in the world. So we are to believe it could not have been aliens because it was actually a fallen angel.

Still, of the two, I prefer Crash.

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Review: Chariots of The Gods

Chariots of The Gods
Chariots of The Gods by Erich von Däniken
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Däniken makes the case that what humanity thought of as gods in the past are actually aliens. We are the result of their breeding programs. Ancient monuments too sophisticated for the peoples of their times were built using the technology of the aliens to demonstrate our readiness of their return.

The evidence is viewed with the strongest optimism. In my more skeptical eyes it comes up wanting. Things presented as supposition are later used as fact to make more supposition still later used as fact. In this way the case becomes more and more fragile instead of stronger.

That people take this seriously is disturbing.

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1996 Olympics

445289440_4d226f2576Twenty years ago I was able to watch some soccer Olympic events in person. We watched the first women’s tournament where the US played Sweden. And Nigeria (who eventually won) play Japan. These were all at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. It made me happy two teams we watched went on to win both the men’s and women’s tournaments.

Also, we drove from Orlando to Atlanta and back. While in Atlanta we watched some Judo and volleyball.

RNC Convention Mishaps

Saw a probably clickbait title “Mishaps overshadow message at the Republican National Convention.” It got me thinking that this is probably another case of media attention hyperbole.

The media fixation story I recall was several years ago about child kidnappings. Every week it made national headlines about a child who disappeared or was taken by a parent. The amount of the occurrences had not significantly changed, but people were fooled into thinking that somehow there was an epidemic of kidnappings. Similarly, there was a summer where the media was all over every shark sighting, making it seem like there was a War On Humans by the shark community. Again, the numbers of attacks was about normal, it was just the attention that caused it to seem worse.

Right now, the fixation seems to be on the presidential election. Donald Trump especially draws the attention due to his “Don’t Care” attitude about everyone and everything. He makes a mistake which gets reported and then error corrects which also gets reported.

Which brings me back to the convention. Normally the convention gets some coverage. But, it feels like everyone is more invested in this one than normal. The Stop Trump campaign had a last ditch effort to block his nomination that was almost certainly going to fail, so I suspect some of the coverage was in hopes they might somehow make it more dramatic. But, all these news people have to justify the expense of sending them by coming up with… well… something. So mishaps that would be considered normal and maybe barely mentioned are all of a sudden “Yuuuuge!” It is okay, people. The Democratic National Convention will have its share of mishaps. I am sure the Don will make sure the media is aware of them so they get equal attention.

Review: Roots: The Saga of an American Family

Roots: The Saga of an American Family
Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This historical fiction novel covers this history of the a black family. How their ancestor started in Africa, was brought to America as a slave, and how the family fared under that despicable institution.

Alex Haley learned the stories of his family passed down along the generations to him. And using the details of the stories, researched for more, and from that wrote this novel.

The visceral emotions evoked were probably due to feeling connected to it. Over the past couple years I have researched my own genealogy. That came about after taking a DNA test and realizing I could use suggested relatives to find more information. But, Kunta Kinte, the Haley ancestor knew his grandfather was from the same part of Africa as my Y-DNA has the highest concentration (suggesting the origin location). Reading Roots feels like what my story could be if only I could find the same information.

I suspect this is why the show captured the American imagination.

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TED Talk: For argument’s sake

Daniel H. Cohen makes an interesting case that:

  1. We equate arguing to war; such that there are winners and losers.
  2. The loser is the one who makes a cognitive improvement, so losing gains the most.

So, we should strive to lose. “It takes practice to be a become a good arguer from the perspective of benefitting from losing.”

My personal observation is whether or not I win or lose an argument, explaining my position requires:

  1. Arriving at how someone else understands the world requires developing one’s Theory of Mind.
  2. Tailoring the argument such that the other(s) understand the position.

These explanations help expose both strengths and weaknesses in the position. In order to “win”, I have to shore up the weakness. That is a cognitive gain. Is it more than the loser who changed? Maybe.

If the above video does not work, then try Daniel H. Cohen: For argument’s sake.

I love logic.