Linky Friday: (Un)earthly Affairs


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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58 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Roy Moore has some classy defenders.

    Po4: I largely agree except calling Donald Trump a “confused ex-Democrat” is to kind. So far the policies advocated by Donald Trump are Republican orthodoxies on steroids like the current tax bill.

    Me6: Perhaps conservative media should look at all the times Fox & Friends (or Fox News in general) decides not to cover things that make the GOP look bad.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Speaking of Menendez, how the Supreme Court made it much easier for politicians to get away with corruption.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      We are never going to have perfectly moral politicians en mass. Especially not in this country. We also know that the American political system is at least a little dependent on corruption to function. A lot of the current era of hyper-partisanship has its origins in getting rid of earmarks and pork. Living with a bit of corruption and greed is better than other vices.Report

  3. fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

    Re3: as someone far from family (and with relatively little family left) and without a Significant Other, church is incredibly important for me. When I had to go to the ER last year, it was someone from church who went with me. I suspect if I had to have minor surgery it would be someone from church who would drive me there and home.

    Sadly, a lot of the “growing” churches tend to be less open to single people (at least some places) unless they’re 20-somethings looking to marry. This may partly be, at least in the evangelical type church, a concern that they don’t want gay people in their midst but….yeah. As a long-term single it’s worrying not having a family network because life feels more precarious.

    I am part of a DOC congregation. We are small and I worry that we won’t still be here five years hence, which will mean I’ll have to find another one to take me in….and will have to decide whether doctrinal similarity or feeling welcomed is more important to me.

    Perhaps some social clubs (like bicyclist clubs) offer similar support, I don’t know, there aren’t many in my area that overlap with an interest of mine.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to fillyjonk says:

      By “growing” I suspect you mean White Evangelical Protestant. They adopted the “church growth” movement back in the 1980s. A big part of this marketing strategy was to identify a target demographic. “Young and preferably affluent” was a popular choice. Couples with young children were a particularly popular choice, as having kids traditionally brings marginal members back to church anyway. Church as a singles meet-up followed naturally, both to attract young singles looking for marriage partners and as a lead-in to their becoming couples with young children. At this point it is kind of baked in. I am prepared to blame White Evangelicals for a lot, but I don’t think this particular trait is due to fear of the Teh Gay.

      As for your particular situation, I would expect that all else being equal, you would be welcomed in any of the traditional mainlines. Methodist is a good bet, if only because they are pretty much everywhere. Of course every individual congregation has its peculiarities, so any given congregation could be a bad fit. Another possibility that might not be immediately obvious is a traditionally black church. I would try an AME church if there are any around you. They often are quite welcoming and supportive, even of white folk.Report

      • We don’t have a large enough Black population to support a local AME church. We do have a large Methodist church and a Presbyterian one (probably doctrinally closest). And there’s a small Episcopalian congregation I’ve heard good things about. (And my brother and sister in law became Episcopalians after getting fed up with the “megachurch” nondenominational options near them)

        Part of the problem for me is that no one knows what to make of a 40-something, never married, no kids, not dating but heterosexual woman. I’m sure I’m seen as deeply weird and viewed with suspicion by many. But my desire to “fit in” to polite society is less than my desire to continue to avoid the meat-market type of dating, so I presume unless a miracle occurs, I will remain single.Report

        • Avatar Maribou in reply to fillyjonk says:

          @fillyjonk Although I am married, I have never attended church with my very-atheist spouse, so when I go (I take years off at a time), I get treated as a single woman, at least until people get to know me (and sometimes even afterward).

          In my experience Episcopalians have been very welcoming, not creepily singles-must-date!!!, and with less pressure than any other Protestant denomination (other than the Congregationalists) to conform my beliefs to theirs. They merely expected me to be warm and supportive to my fellow churchgoers once I’d been there a while, and maybe to start pitching in on some projects as I was able, eventually.

          This has been true in both conservative and liberal Episcopal congregations. Heck, it was/is even true of the Anglican church in Canada that my second family went to when I was a kid.Report

        • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to fillyjonk says:

          What Maribou said, re the Episcopalians. Were I to find myself in a place without a good Lutheran option, I would look to the Episcopalians next. On the other hand, if you are looking because your small, financially non-viable church gave up the ghost, it would be understandable if you wanted to look into the small Episcopal church’s finances before making any commitment. (Pro tip: Never–Never!–join a church that keeps its finances hidden.) Regarding the Presbyterian church, they come in different flavors, which vary wildly. The two largest are the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Presbyterian Church in America. You would want to do your due diligence before walking in the door. To their credit, they are pretty good about not hiding who they are, which is not true of all churches, but you need to know the code.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to fillyjonk says:

          Methodists, at least their mainstream ones, are very doctrinely close to mainline Lutherans and Presbyterians. So much so that my grandmother, a life-long Lutheran (i the classic German style), found the Methodist doctrine and service to incredible easy to follow, even as she was declining. The differences between their doctrine weren’t large, and the liturgy was almost identical.

          My local Methodist church (I’m not a member, though my wife is) would be delighted to have you, for the simple reason that it meant you could sit in fellowship with your brethren in Christ. Everything else is…unimportant. (I can think of at last a dozen “members” who have never joined, will never join, and show up more often than anyone but the pastor. Who is just glad they’ve found a place they’re comfortable to worship.)

          That being said, that’s got more to do with the congregation than the pastors who rotate through. (Methodist pastors don’t stick around for more than a few years. They rotate them around.)Report

  4. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Po4: As Jonathan Bernstein frequently observes, if you think a lot about politics your weird. Most people, and this includes some very well-educated people, don’t think deeply about politics or at least all of politics. They approach it from a more inchoate and tribal thought. Because I belong to X group, I vote for Y party and don’t have a systematic way of seeing issues. A person I know supports tough gun control but thinks the entire kneeling for the flag to protest police brutality is disrespectful These are not two opinions that most ideologues would see as going to gather but this person seems to have no problem with the cognitive dissonance.

    Most people really do not operate with any sort of consistency in their ideology and seem perfectly fine with believing mutually contradictory things. People who are concerned about consistency find this weird and troublesome.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I can’t decide if the article is just a tautology, that people who think about ideology are more ideological than people who don’t. There could be merit to the article, though. I’ll have to give it some thought.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Pinky says:

        Its not really a tautology. The article is just pointing out how most people approach politics is a lot different than say how people on this blog approach politics regardless of what we believe.Report

  5. Avatar Kolohe says:

    {Sp4} there was a thing on twitter about the ethics and wisdom of shouting out into the darkness yelling “HEY WE’RE OVER HERE” at random extraterrestials with unknowable motives. I still think it’s fine. (And I think we have some sort of detectable signature already from any interstellar civilization that could possibly do us harm)

    {Sp6} The ethics of terraforming Mars is an actual ethical conundrum for me. Could we wall off of a chunk of the planet and keep it as a wilderness preserve in its pre-human state?Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Kolohe says:

      I can understand the ethical arguments for preserving an organic ecosystem. Preserving Mars, though? That’s a tough sell.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Pinky says:

        Yeah, that’s why it’s a dillema. On the one hand, it’s probably the most practical place for human off-earth permanent settlements in the next few generations, but on the other hand, it is a unique place as it is right now.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to Kolohe says:

          Clarification: when I say it’s a tough sell, I mean it’s tough to make the argument that there is any reason to preserve Mars as-is. And when I refer to an organic ecosystem, I mean in the sense of being carbon-based and containing life.Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to Pinky says:

            @pinky The only arguments I’ve ever heard that I was deeply sympathetic to are that it may in fact *be* an (organic or otherwise) ecosystem, and we don’t know enough to be 100 percent sure it isn’t, yet. I have an aesthetic appreciation for the idea of not screwing up planets b/c they are so different, but aesthetic only. Ethically I’d turn the whole world into paperclips as long as I wasn’t harming sentient (meaning emotionally, not rationally, intelligent) life in the short- or long-term.

            And even if there is some sort of (non-sentient) life on Mars somehow – deeply sympathetic doesn’t mean “insistent.” We’re kinda desperate here, in some ways. If Mars became easily terraformable, I’m not sure I could ethically even ask people to slow down in the surge to terraform it.

            I could imagine there being value to humans in a nature preserve though, even if it was as artificially maintained as significant chunks of our state and national parks are…Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Maribou says:

              Oh, boy howdy.
              Someone (who will for the purposes of this remain nameless) went off on Kim Stanley Robinson for all the inaccuracies of his Mars Trilogy.
              (specifically, the idea that we’d actually be able to make it work at all. Knowing this person, he brought tables and evidence too).

              So what does Robinson do?

              He writes a book based on THAT premise.

              Which everyone hates, because any of the true hardsf people had run away screaming after Green Mars, and it’s blasted depressing to boot.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Pinky says:

            Yes, I agree that ‘Mars Preservationists’ are probably going to be a minority and more than likely lose out. (And on balance, if pressed, I think they should)

            But I think they will have a point, and can’t be dismissed as luddite hippies or whatever.

            Eta (we are going to see the same arguments, but substitute ‘rocks’ for ‘owls’ and ‘snail darters’, etcReport

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Kolohe says:

              Once the atmo begins to change, preserving any part of Mars in a pre-human state will be near to impossible.

              On the plus side, we will be living in habitats for a very long time prior to any attempt to terraform, so if there is significant life on the planet, we should find evidence of it before we drop an ice comet on the place.Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Our scientists seem stumped by the problem of keeping Earth’s temperature from increasing a couple of degrees every century. You want me to go to Mars and live in a geodesic dome until they build a rain forest? Prove to me that you can make Brazil into a rain forest. That should be easier, since it already is one. It should be easy to terraform Terra, right?Report

        • Avatar James K in reply to Kolohe says:


          Is it though? Barren chunks of rock aren’t exactly rare. They’re far less rare than inhabited planets.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to Kolohe says:

      If by “detectable signature” we mean palpably artificial electromagnetic radiation, then the leading edge is only about a hundred light years from us. This is to say, it only encompasses a tiny bubble of space, on the galactic scale. And even if the space monsters seeking earth women are learning about us this very moment, if they don’t have FTL drives it is going to be a very long time before they reach us and our women. If they do have FTL drives, all bets are off regardless.

      Preserving a chunk of Mars: Terraforming pretty much by definition will involve massive modification to the atmosphere. Unless you are talking about hermetically sealed domes with primordial Mars inside, I don’t see how walling off a chunk is meaningful.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe says:

    {Sp4} Interesting this seems a bit different than what I took for the state of thinking 20-30 years ago. There was even a trend in science fiction literature (which Asimov might have even spearheaded) to make alien life forms *a lot different* from earth-familiar ones, as the pulps and then Hollywood production realities made most aliens just close approximations of earth species.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kolohe says:

      Asimov didn’t write aliens for most of his career, because he didn’t want to either write them as obviously inferior to humans, as John Campbell wanted, or have a fight with Campbell.

      When he finally did, in The Gods Themselves, they were very alien.Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Sp4: Considering that one out of every five humans have been Chinese for thousands of years, they probably should meet the aliens first. Chinese civilization is one of the oldest continual human civilization on the planet and it represents the biggest plurality of humans.Report

  8. Avatar InMD says:

    [Sp5] If it bleeds we can kill it.Report

  9. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Sanders supporters and the Russia Investigation with Sanders being on the other side of his supporters:Report

  10. Avatar Pinky says:

    Re4: First off, I’m strongly in favor of teaching about religions in public schools. In private schools and homeschooling too, for that matter.

    But this particular article wasn’t really about teaching about religion. It was about teaching about Islam without Islamophobes getting in the way. It was also about, in passing, how those Christian-types want to teach about Christianity in schools so we better keep an eye out for them.

    I suppose the advice it gives is good, although I’m stunned that teachers would think about packing up the kids into a bus and taking them to a house of worship. I mean, the best case scenario is a bunch of kids pointing and gawking at people in prayer, and that’s ignoring all the potential church-state issues. Yes, show a video. Yeesh.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Pinky says:

      Worst case happened to my Cantor:
      A bunch of Catholic kids were taking a tour of our synagogue, when one of the kids piped up and asked, “Why’d you kill Jesus?”Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Pinky says:

      The whole “teach kids about religions” thing seems pretty simple to me. I remember covering the basics of the major world religions in public middle school and high school in California without much controversy or ill effect. It was mostly not about rituals and garb but just the basic tenets and history.

      Putting kids in a situation where they might feel like they have to *participate* in some other religion’s rituals seems like playing with fire. Taking them to a service where they might be asked to get involved or having them wear religious garb doesn’t seem to add much to the educational experience in exchange for the risk of putting a religious kid in a really awkward situation.Report

    • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Pinky says:

      I think the part about taking students to a house of worship with some participating in the call to prayer probably violates the Establishment Clause. When you have court decisions that breathlessly exclaim that students on the way to graduation in a church auditorium will be required to travel on streets with the names “Agape” and “Barnabas,” you have to figure the courts think that students old enough to graduate from high school are completely unable to think for themselves.

      That makes it pretty hard to imagine public schools doing any of this. They cannot imply support or non-support.Report

  11. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Sc5: Interesting, but does it scale?Report

  12. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Sp1: A question for the astronomers – When an odd planet is found, one that scientists claim shouldn’t be in the orbit it is in because it couldn’t have formed there, why is orbital perturbation or object capture never considered as a possible explanation (at least, not in the articles I read)? Rogue planets are theorized to exist (planets just traveling through space, not in orbit around a star), and it is possible for one to have been capture by a star. Likewise, a sufficiently massive object making a near pass of planets could pull a planet further out, or in. Or a combination of the two events (capturing a rogue planet perturbed other orbits).Report

  13. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Me1: During my high school years, a few other kids and I found quite of lot of Play Girls in our high school. We were on Stage Crew and needed to go up into a storage space near the auditorium because thats where the furniture and other big props were kept for school plays or where we adjusted the lights. We were doing some clean up work and found at least one or two boxes filled with old copies of Play Boys. This was probably in 1995 or 1996 and they seemed to be from the late eighties or early nineties.Report

  14. Avatar DavidTC says:

    [Po4] I am increasingly convinced that this is true. It’s been confirmed at least on one side of the aisle, but if we’re honest it’s true of the other side as well as those on the fence, in aggregate. This is also an argument for strong parties with good party elites.

    I think this is, in a way, both true and false. Voters mostly do not care about, or know anything about, political specifics. (In fact, you can say that about most things that are not required for daily living. People mostly do not care about, or know anything about, how to write a screenplay or how to build a house. Most people are kinda dumb about most things. People tend to specialize in just a few areas of knowledge.)

    But I think each voter has a vague sense of direction, of what things are wrong and what sort of things can be done to fix them. (Just like people kinda know how to write a screenplay, or build a house. They’d come up with something, it would just probably be crappy.)

    I think these ‘vague directions’ or ‘vague philosophies’ might be taught by the parties in some sense, but voters are not blank slates that the party can project anything on.

    And I think we’ve recently learned that the vague direction of Republican voters is not even slightly pointed where party leaders imagined it was pointed.

    But this doesn’t mean the Democrats are the same. In fact, Trump and Sanders basically prove they aren’t.

    Trump and Sanders both hijacked part of their respective party by leading a mob of voters in the direction the voters mostly wanted to go, instead of where the party wanted them to go. And we can make some fairly obvious conclusions based on the directions they picked. Trump went off in a random, somewhat crazy direction, whereas Sanders doubled down on the direction the party had been pointing but didn’t bother to go.

    What I think this article is measuring is actually something else entirely: What _label_ people are using to describe themselves. Which can, indeed, vary while party identification stays the same.

    But the article presents very little evidence this change in label is actually a change in any political position.Report

  15. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Regarding aliens, I just saw “Arrival” and found it really annoying. It was interesting and the sort of movie I’d be really into — and was, for much of it — but the big reveal felt cheap. I hate when movies go for the BIG TWIST but give no ability to predict it. It’s one thing jf the clues are subtle, but they were simply absent. That isn’t good story telling; it’s just cheap.Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

      “BIG TWIST but give no ability to predict it”

      Huh. My mileage varied a lot on that, I saw it coming from before she met the aliens.

      It’s possible I’d already read the story and it was lurking in my subconscious, though.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:

        As soon as the final sequence began, I realize, “Oh, yup… here we go. Here’s who he is/was and here’s how it all went down.” But that was still the end.

        I’d be curious if you could point to specific elements of the film that allowed you to see it. Or if it was more just a matter of your own perception and understanding of narrative elements and the like. I reckon you’re far more advanced in those areas than I am.Report

        • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

          @kazzy Honestly when I see twists coming it’s always intuitive so it’s hard to point out specifics, just an “oh, I think…”. Good thing I don’t mind the lack of surprises :D.
          I have a friend in their mid-20s who is a writer, and they are 100 times more perceptive than me – they’re constantly saying “do you want me to spoil this episode?” about the dumb CW shows we watch together, at least 10 minutes before the resolution has occurred to me.

          I think, based on seeing what they’re doing which is the same thing I’m doing only more self-aware, that it’s just about having spent a lot of time with stories (in my voracious reader case) and being trained at pulling them apart (in their case; they have a BA in Creative Writing). There are only so many possible ways for stories to go. And a good story will have the ending built into the beginning, and if you’ve read a million beginnings and seen where they ended up, you kind of can’t help but recognize the pieces of the ending in it.

          I wasn’t 100 percent certain, in this case, mind you. I just thought, “oh, okay, these stories probably fit together in this particular way, it’d be weird if it turned out differently.” Then, when I had that INTERRRRRRRRRRRMINABLE ride upward toward the aliens in the elevator-shaft-like thinger to sit through, it gave me time to sift through the story some more in my mind and draw some conclusions (only less analytically than that makes it sound) – things settled into place.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:

            That makes a lot of sense. I watched this with my new girlfriend, who was initially hesitant because suspense movies aren’t her cup of tea. Then there was the opening sequence which had her in tears saying, “That is my biggest fear! I hate this movie!” (She’s a mother of one.) And all I could say was, “I had no idea this was a part of the movie.” So, yes, there was definitely some dots to connect and it doesn’t surprise me that someone with your brain and experience connects them more quickly and easily than others. What you describe in terms of your ability to break things down and your friend’s even more advanced ability to do the same is what I was referring to.

            It is interesting to think about how differently we engage with a work of art. It can be easy to accept, “You feel differently about this work of art than I do.” It is much harder to really understand, “You experience this work of art differently than I do.”Report

            • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

              @kazzy To be sure, and I didn’t mean to suggest you were doing it wrong, if that helps at all. Just surprised there was such a difference.

              FWIW if someone next to me had been really upset at the beginning of the movie, I wouldn’t have picked up on any subtle hints of anything for some time.Report

    • Avatar aaron david in reply to Kazzy says:

      I am with you on that @kazzy. I generally refer to it as an O. Henry ending, something out-of-the-blue happening to finish the story. I prefer a story that you can see the ending coming subtly or clearly, but feel powerless against its glory/horror.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to aaron david says:

        I don’t mind a big twist. It is often fun to go back and find all the clues that seem so obvious in hindsight. And *maybe* “Arrival” has those, but I can’t remember a one? It feels like they very intentionally wanted to lead the viewer one way and then *BAM*… look how clever they are!

        I would like to rewatch. Maybe there is more than there I realize. And it is the kind of movie that done right would be sooooo up my alley. Especially with the focus on language, which I find endlessly fascinating, and recent readings I’ve done that explore one of the main themes of the movie, that of the ability for language to shape our understanding or perception of the world (with this obviously being an extreme degree of that).Report

        • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kazzy says:

          @kazzy The short story by Ted Chiang, which I did seek out after the movie (still not sure if I’d read it years before!) has even more about those themes, so you may want to check it out as well… It’s really beautiful.

          It’s in a book called The Story of Your Life and Others, all of which I love even though I generally hate short stories far more often than I like them, so I’d recommend it – or if you are just interested in hunting it down online, you probably could. I don’t know of any legal venues offering it for free, so I shan’t link it.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Maribou says:

            Thanks, @maribou . I did see that it was based on a book and I instantly became curious to read it. I should have been a little clearer — and tamer — in my criticism. I didn’t think it was a bad movie but DID find it annoying (not really annoying). But some of that is probably on me.

            I felt similarly about “Big Little Lies”, which has an unexpected ending that I understand was explained/foreshadowed much more thoroughly in the book (the character in question has a specific backstory that explains her actions that simply isn’t there in the show… or so I’ve been told).

            I like putting the pieces together and felt like I missed the chance to do so here. But, again, maybe that is on me. @stillwater says there was a big one (maybe I can rewatch it but if you don’t mind sharing it under a spoiler-tag, I’d be curious to hear what you saw). And @morat20 suggests maybe I just sort of missed the point… which is entirely possible. My brain don’t always work so good.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

          And *maybe* “Arrival” has those, but I can’t remember a one?

          It does, tho. A big one!Report

        • Avatar aaron david in reply to Kazzy says:

          “Especially with the focus on language”

          Can I make a recommendation @kazzy ? You might really like the book The Sparrow. If you like language and lingistics, cut with a health bit of SF/thriller AND philosophy, it will be right up your alley.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to aaron david says:

            Thanks, @aaron-david ! Sounds very up my alley. Is it fairly accessible? The only thing that gives me pause is I struggle with denser reads.Report

            • Avatar aaron david in reply to Kazzy says:

              Kindle @kazzy !

              I am sure that anyone here who has read it will say to just read it, but (from my bookseller days) I would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone. Challenge yourself, it is worth it.Report

              • Avatar aaron david in reply to aaron david says:

                (just realized I totally misunderstood your accessible question. Yes, I think it is.)Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to aaron david says:

                @aaron-david @kazzy

                1) Yes, read it, it’s one of my favorite books ever and I’ve read it three times.
                2) My book club was really upset I didn’t warn them about something that is exceptionally spoilery but also quite awful. I think that’s probably enough of a warning but if you would rather know more before embarking on it, let me know.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

      I liked it better than how Interstellar tried to execute largely the same twist.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kazzy says:

      It’s foreshadowed far more heavily in the short story. There are hints in the movie, IIRC, but they’re very obscure. (One is, IIRC, a throwaway line in the background about the weird gaps in exchanging mathematics. The short story went into more detail.)

      I recently watched it again (my brother wanted to see it), and I enjoyed it even more — because all snippets of her daughter were woven so well into it, that it both held up and didn’t spoil the later moment of understanding.

      And honestly, I don’t think you’re supposed to see “the twist coming”. You’re supposed to grasp it as she does. (It’s not even “the twist” so much as it is the moment where a puzzle is solved. More than a Eureka moment, it’s the point where the main character makes a mental leap, utterly shifting not a scientific paradigm but the very underpinnings of how she understands the universe to work.)Report