02 February 2016

The Big Deal about Big History

R.I.P. David Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016)You are among the most creative, beautiful, and positively impactful human beings
who ever lived!

Edit: Before anyone gets their hopes up, please note that this article has absolutely nothing to do with David Bowie, except ever so subtly, at the very end. I just couldn't let his death go unacknowledged.

The brainchild of David Christian at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, Big History is all about connecting knowledge—which is right up my alley, with my whole connectivity thing.

Big History is the story of everything. It’s a way of looking at how reality as we know it developed from the beginning of time, itself, that joins the theoretically modeled mechanical explanations used in the physical sciences with the empirically based social science of history. It’s a cosmological mapping of one historical continuum—an all-encompassing origin story for the 21st century. It’s the unifying force of a single narrative that says, “We are the universe looking back on itself.”

02 January 2016

A New Year's Jaunt

Dr. Albert Schweitzer | Image via Wikipedia

Our House in Barrio Parque

It’s 1 January 2016.

I’m in my house in Barrio Parque, La Paloma, Uruguay, surrounded by Uruguayans who’ve come mostly from the departmental capital of Rocha to flock to the beach while I continue with the day-to-day struggles of life. This barrio is over on the opposite side of Cabo de Santa María from where the center of La Paloma is located. We´re farther from the beaches—La Aguada, Costa Azul, Antoniópolis, and Arachania—than we were when we lived in town, so we don´t get over there too much. But I can always hear the ocean from our second-floor balcony. I love the way that sometimes, it´s the waves crashing on the beaches over on the far side of the cape, sometimes it´s from the near side, and sometimes, I get it in surround sound.

And then there´s the night sky… We´re coming up on the time of year when the Southern Cross shines right into my house after nightfall, lighting my way up the stairs through the sliding glass door on the landing—how awesome is that!

28 December 2014

Joaquín Torres García vs. Ayn Rand: A Unique Profile of the Uruguayan National Character

Introductory Note

Another year has passed, during which I, unfortunately, have been too busy making the money I need to survive to engage in what I really love to do. Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy my current writing and editing work, and I am very thankful to have the opportunity to do it. But it takes up all my energy. Perhaps the new year will bring me to a place where I can once again do the writing that truly moves my spirit and feeds my soul.

02 December 2013

Imagine: Religion as Social Reform - Reza Aslan, Iran, and Religious Faith

Reza Aslan

La Paloma, Uruguay
So, the holiday season is upon us. It always sneaks up on me, here in the Southern Hemisphere, where springtime is awakening into summertime. It doesn’t help that I live in a summer resort town, where the bigger issue is the launch of the holiday season that will rain a deluge of beachgoers onto the usually solitary sands of the lovely, if rather windy, shores of La Paloma. Plus, the Catholicism that infuses Latin American culture is not nearly as ubiquitous in Uruguay, and this country’s clearly defined separation of church and state also tempers the Christmas holiday atmosphere. Besides, not since childhood has Christmas been a holiday that I can get into, anyway, given my distain for the crass commercialization and hyper-consumerism that surrounds it in the States. Well, that, plus I am an atheist who feels a bit hypocritical celebrating something I don’t believe in, although I can dig the idea of celebrating family togetherness and the joy that so many other people get out of the whole thing for their own sakes. Oh, but there’s so much more emotional baggage involved in my attitude toward Christmastime, including memories of that one really difficult Christmas that preceded my mother’s death from breast cancer by about a month, all those years ago...

08 September 2013

From "I have a dream" to "I will seek authorization for the use of force"

From "I have a dream" to "I will seek authorization for the use of force," the final week of August 2013 was an intense one.

"I have a dream"

We had the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington reminding us of how far our nation has and hasn't come in achieving race equality, putting us in a self-reflective mood and highlighting the conflict between those who climbed up and, as a part of the establishment, are now standing on the shoulders of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other heroic civil rights advocates versus those who see such leaders as sellouts rather than as examples of the movement's successes.

Fifty years is not much time, in the grand scope of things; yet, because of the increasingly accelerated speed of change in modern society, it constitutes a huge generational gap in which the synergy of King's life and work has become subtly diluted.

11 July 2013

Eward Snowden Strange Love, or How I Haven't Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bumb

This Snowden NSA leak saga is doing strange things to me.

For starters, it has me obsessed. This real-time spy thriller has me scanning through the Internets, searching for the latest news and looking for any and all information about this snowy-white computer whiz kid that I can dig up. I want to know everything.

Freedom of information

I want to know more details about Snowden's life, like when he switched from believing that whistle blowers were traitors to believing that they are heroes.

I want to know the details of his military service, along with what Snowden's opinion might be about the fact that the US Army is declining to release his records. Would he condemn the government's refusal to reveal the truth, or would he applaud the government's respect for his right to privacy?

I want to know why the initial sensational reports by both The Guardian and The Washington Post about the PRISM Internet surveillance program had gotten the details of the NSA's access to information wrong, erring, of course, on the side of sensationalism.

11 June 2013

Secrecy, Scandals, and Snowden

This is a bit contrary to the usual progressive stance on the latest NSA data collection revelations. Although I believe that the legal system that is in place might very well be infringing on our Fourth-Amendment rights, I don't see a major scandal here. Rather, I see an opportunity highlight the danger of excessive secrecy.

Back in September 2008, after giving birth to by book, No Stranger To Strange Lands, had sadly come to an end, I felt like the only way to rid myself of a sense of post-partum depression was to keep writing, indulging myself in writing an undisciplined screed titled Secrecy, Democracy,and Fascism: Lessons From History. Having been watching a lot of episodes of House, the theme was to discover the disease that was manifesting itself as through the unfortunate symptom of runaway conspiracy theories and, I was arguing, unwarranted distrust of the government. "Mis-diagnosing the disease, "I wrote, "can be as bad or worse than just ignoring it." I was deeply troubled by such issues as Karl Rove's plan to politicize the judiciary and create one-party rule, Dick Cheney's penchant for secrecy and his abuse of power in lashing out against Joe Wilson for outing the administration's flawed argument for going to war in Iraq, and George Bush's excessive use of signing statements, and I decided to take a look at what critical terms Like "tyranny" and "fascism" that were being bandied about really meant — what it was that our failing democracy was becoming. The issue of secrecy seemed to me to be one of the greatest forces eroding at democracy, which depends upon informed citizens to function properly. Secrecy also erodes trust, and a crisis in trust can turn into an earthquake, catastrophically tearing apart the foundation of democracy.

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