Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Farewell...

This is a farewell…of sorts. After this, no more will I post “heavy” topics here. This blog will be reserved for non-controversy. My other blog Complex Topics is where I will continue to post sensitive issues and where bare-knuckle brawling is expected. I came to this conclusion visiting other blogs. Simply put, there are at least three major topics that ought not to be blogged about (with comments turned on), if one does not wish gloves to come off: religion, politics and human sexuality (gay rights).

No one posts on these topics without having strong convictions of their own. Posting these topics is only done to advance one’s view on those topics. Despite protestations to the contrary, few people who make such posts are really interested in having their point of view skewered and they are equally unwilling to defend their position with facts or well-conceived logic.

What they seek is a pleasant “discussion” with like-minded friends who will not seriously challenge their thought processes or assertions. They welcome an occasional buffoon whose arguments consist of “I don’t care what you think” or “Boo Hoo” or any number of inane comments, because then they can put on their condescending leftist liberal airs (there, I said it) and lecture that person. Throw them a serious challenge (delivered in condescending conservative airs) and they protest, “but I just wanted a discussion. This is going nowhere, leave me alone”.

A recent visit to another blog with political content brought me to this conclusion. The blogger posted a handful of facts extracted primarily from a blatantly slanted news article and concluded with his highly charged input. Given the facts posted and the blogger’s prior statements of political leanings, I assumed he was continuing to push his political view about the Republican Presidential candidate. Most of the comments were like-minded cheerleading, sage nodding and shaking of heads over how wise we are and how evil this politician is and oh how evil America has become. A handful of comments went completely in the other direction…way out there condoning torture. Yes, the topic was President Bush's recent veto.

When I finally joined the discussion, I came in hard. It was clear to me that most, if not all the participants in the “discussion” knew nothing beyond the news article. They had not read the legislation about which they were commenting. They had not read any statements apart from those provided in the article. They had not drawn any conclusions except those conveniently laid out for them in the article or the original post. Or the obvious, "torture is bad".

I challenged all to read the legislation, and read the real statements…multiple times. Some were content to draw implied conclusions from quotes, but took offense when I did the same to their comments. I was taken to task for assuming they had not read the legislation or other primary sources. Excuse me, but if you tell me that according to Genesis, God created Eve first, and Adam from her rib, then I would accuse you of not reading Genesis and I would be right. “His damn job is information-seeking on political issues!” I was told, by one person defending another with the air of “how dare you say he didn’t read the source material.”

Um, well, about the same time that comment came through, the person whose “damn job is information-seeking on political issues” steps forward to admit he had not read the source documents and that he relies on other agencies to synthesize things for him…agencies that happen to share his political views. Now let me state that I consider this individual to be honorable. I can give no higher acclaim. I do not know if he saw the other comment before his admission, but to admit at all that he did not read the source documents showed integrity. That I respect. Those who truly know me know this to be true. I am old fashioned in this sense: I am willing to die over a point of honor.

As the discussion wound down and the blogger who made the original post rejoined the discussion, he too wound up admitting that he had simply plucked his disjointed “facts” from the news article he had cited. Only one person commenting ever asserted that they had read the source documents. So, it seems I was right all along, most had not read the source documents. After being taken to task for accusing others of not reading the sources, I was right. The readers’ conclusions were formed based upon what a third party wanted the readers to believe.

It’s an election year. People are charged up with their political views. They happily latch on to reports that reinforce those views, seldom bothering to check the facts. Let the “experts” do the analysis for me, they say. Not me. Social and political commentary is but a starting point. On issues I care about and wish to publicly comment upon, I educate myself not with other’s opinions, but with the facts from which opinions and conclusions are drawn. As much as I respect and like George Will, I check his facts.

So I have promulgated some “laws” and “corollaries”.

1. In discussing religion, politics or gay rights, there will be mud. Deal with it.

2. Do not post about religion, politics or gay rights unless you are prepared to get dirty, or stay the hell out of it.

3. Any discussion of religion, politics or gay rights isn’t really a discussion, but a bare-knuckled brawl. Deal with it.

4. When posting about religion, politics or gay rights, be certain you have your facts straight, in context, and can back them up, or be prepared to be skewered.

5. In posts about religion, politics or gay rights, anything not a fact will be pure raw emotion. Deal with it.

6. Don’t visit blogs where the owners want to have a “discussion” about religion, politics or gay rights, unless you intend to agree with their every word. They seldom really mean it.

7. If in doubt about #6, sit back for a bit and watch the flow of the "discussion". Enter only if mud is flying freely and people are not bemoaning the fact.

I shall henceforth follow my self-promulgated laws and corollaries when navigating through blog land. And so, Writer’s Musings bows out of further charged “discussion”. It’s too hard to keep the furniture clean if there is mud flying and I do like to lighten up now and then.

Charged topics will be moved to Complex Topics where all nice furniture, rugs and such have been removed. Feel free to take off the gloves, grab a handful of mud and fight for what you believe in. Think of it as cage-fighting in blogosphere. The only rules are no direct name-calling or excessive profanity permitted. Imply all you want. Asking charged leading questions. Fling inuendo. Don't boo hoo when the mud smacks you in the face.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

My Favorite Place -- Scotland

My town isn't much to talk about. So rather than join in "My Town Monday" series, I'm going my own direction with "My Favorite Place". If there is one place I would live outside the US, it is Scotland. In the first place, it is sparsely populated..which I like. In the second place, it is rich in history, which I love. In the third place, even though I have a German name, most of my ancestory is Scottish and Irish. Whenever I visit Scotland, it really feels like I am returning home. Or, hame, as the Scots would say.

So to get things rolling, I'm starting out with some views of my favorite city, Edinburgh...and I'm not a city guy. What I like about Edinburgh is that everything worth seeing can be reached on foot...assuming one is moderately fit. Edinburgh, like Rome, is built on seven hills, two of which are extinct volcanos at either end of the old city.

Above is Edinburgh Castle. One cannot get lost in Edinburgh as long as the castle is visible. The extinct volcano upon which the current castle sits has been occupied by fortresses or castles since at least 600 C.E. The earliest recorded king who resided here was Mynnyndogg, who feasted and drank with his warriors before heading south to do battle with the Angles the next morning. He and his drunken band were slaughtered by the Angles.

This is the view of "the front door" at night. See, you can't even get lost at night because the castle is illuminated. This view is from the esplanade, where the famous "Military Tatoo" takes place every August.

From the "Castle Hill", this is the famous Balmoral Hotel (cheap rooms are a mere £250 per night). In the background is Calton Hill, which has a collection of monuments. The tall one is the Nelson Monument. In the right foreground is Waverly Station.

The house on the right was where John Knox, Protestant Reformer and pastor of St Giles Cathedral lived. The taller connected house to the left is thought to be the oldest surviving house in Edinburgh (apart from the castle) dating to around 1400.

At the other end of "The Royal Mile" from Edinburgh Castle, is Holyrood Palace. When the Queen holds court in Scotland, Holyrood Palace is where she stays. The little building here is known as Queen Mary's Bath House. Reputedly where Mary, Queen of Scots would bathe when in residence in Holyrood. Typically, buildings such as a bath house where fire would be present were kept separate from the living quarters. The new Scottish Parliament Building is out of the picture across the street on the right.

Lastly the monument to Greyfriar's Bobby, the wee Skye terrier who kept watch over his master's grave in Greyfriar's Kirk Yard for 14 years from 1858 until his death in January 1872. Certainly the most photographed dog in Edinburgh and probably in the world. Bobby is buried on a small piece of ground on the edge of the cemetery about ten yards from his master's grave. More on Bobby in a later post, but for now, this concludes your introductory tour of my favorite city.