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You are currently viewing archive for December 2007
Posted By Bakari

Amazing the amount of knowledge that there is even to be had, even more so that so much of it has been consolidated.

You learn the most interesting things, which you didn't even know you were looking for at first.

Here are a few of the things I would never have guessed, and have learned since yesterday:

1 In many countries/cultures around the world Santa Claus (or Saint Nick, or whoever) is accompanied by a demonic character, often named Knecht Ruprecht (Servant Rupert), or Krampus (Claw). While Santa gives gifts to good little children, it is the job of Rupert the Claw to punish the bad ones; slightly bad kids are hit with his cane or birch rod, very naughty children are likely to be put into his sack (like Santa's, but empty) and taken away.  A gentler version sometimes has him leaving behind coal or a bundle of sticks in lieu of the beating.
In Italy, in place of Santa is a woman who is an excellent housekeeper and host (and looks a bit like a friendly witch).  She set out to bring the baby Jesus gifts, but got lost, and so instead wanders the world giving gifts to all the children she does find.

2 The island country we know as Taiwan is actually officially called The Republic of China (as distinct from mainland China which is officially The Peoples Republic of China).  In deference to the demands of communist mainland China (PRC) in the UN and other diplomatic settings it is referred to as Chinese Taipei (Taipei is the capital city).
The government / political party which controls Taiwan/Republic of China controlled all of China (mainland and Taiwan) between the time the last dynasty/emperors were overthrown and when the communist party took power, and technically, they still consider all of China to be legitimately party of their territory.
The original inhabitants of Taiwan were most closely related to Polynesians, with Chinese settling there as early as the 1200s.  It was later colonized by the Dutch for 100 years or so, before being defeated by the Chinese when it became a province of China for around 200 years, before being taken over by Japan around the turn of the last century, which controlled it until losing WWII.  AS the communists began to win the civil war only a few years later millions of Chinese loyal to the democratic/capitalistic government fled to Taiwan, ever since running an independent and autonomous - although officially unrecognized - country.
Today 98% of the population is ethnically Chinese (12% of whom have only been there since WWII), only 2% are actually aboriginal Taiwanese.

3 In ancient Greece some of the most politically influenitial and independant women, and the only ones to be educated, were hetaera, who were among other things, prostitutes.  They filled a somewhat similar role as Japan's geishas or Europes courtesans providing entertainment and all forms, including not only sex but everything from music and dance to intelligent conversation.  As with geishas, in some circumstances a hetaera could be purchased outright by a single individual - in one case the price being equivalent to 8 years average salary.
hetaera were the only females who participated in the conversations at Symposiums, a party which was a cross between a place for intellectual discussion and a drinking party.  It seems that in general men were far more likely to be in love with their hetaera than with their wives, whose purpose was primarily only procreation and the upkeep of a household, however, in love or not, they could not marry, as hetaera were never citizens.

Posted By Bakari

Ever seen those fundamentalist evangelical christian fanatics gathered at gay parades and abortion clinics?
They gather up a good group of like minded people, they have signs, slogans, chants.

Has seeing them ever made you think maybe gays really are going to hell, or that abortion really is worse than murder? Even a little bit? Even for a moment?

My guess is no. You look at them, and think they are idiots, you are disturbed that they feel something so disgusting with enough conviction to even be there. You wonder why they care so much about issues which don't even directly affect them.

And yet, so many of us feel that, when it is ourselves holding the signs, saying the chants, that we are somehow influencing people, changing peoples minds, raising awareness perhaps.
Anyone who is still unaware, doesn't care. Anyone who is on the other side, just thinks poorly of the protesters, they aren't going to have a change of heart based on a chant or a slogan. Perhaps a long, in depth dialog, showing facts they may have been unaware of, demonstrating the logical fallacies of their assumptions, on so on, but not a chant.
Those people who do things like "honk" a horn in support, they were already on our side to begin with.

Then there is the idea that it will somehow influence politicians.
An elected official either gets your vote, or they don't. If you approve of them 51%, they have no reason to care if that increases to 99%, because you will already vote for them. That increase would cause a corresponding drop in some other demographics vote. Like wise, if you like them 49%, they just as well may alienate you all the way, as they have already lost you.
(Hence "non-binding resolutions", get just enough support, without any political backlash)
Unless you have a city wide general strike, chances are any protest, however large, is actually composed of a fairly small subset of the population.
Outside of actual voting, why should they be concerned with the will of the citizens? Because they get there power from the fact that we choose to give it to them. They make the laws, but if the entire society, or a significant portion of it, doesn't follow one of them, it becomes meaningless. It is extremely unlikely at this particular point in time in this country, but the possibility of a coop always exists.

So the question becomes, how strongly do the citizens object to the actions of their leaders? What are they willing to risk, or sacrifice?


In the case of a protest, basically nothing. The individuals involved have very little risk from being there. It costs only a few hours of time, and having to stand or walk.
And, it seems most protests, anything short of the majority of a population, has little or no real effect.

Compare to those actions which have had the intended effect.


<entire blog at MySpace>

Posted By Bakari

The history and impact of American over-consumption, in easy to digest cartoon form

The Story of Stuff

A much more detailed and in depth documentary covering similar (its actually far more deliberate than you probably thought!):


(In case the embeding fails or changes, try: or just search for "The Century of the Self" on youtube or google video)

Posted By Bakari

I got a free copy of the Utne Reader at the SF Green festival.
First one I had ever read, although I recognized the name as something Aileen had recommended years ago.

It was chock full of interesting articles on a wide variety of important issues, many of which are relevant to me.  I think I'll subscribe.

Three articles inspired letters to the editor, (two of which are available to read on their website).

Salvage Beauty


I realize that the San Francisco Bay Area in CA is not necessarily representative of the rest of the country, but around here at least, this is not exactly news.

Our version of the "Loading Dock" - Urban Ore - in Berkeley, has been open for 25 years.
It opened originally with materials actually extracted from a landfill, and continues today with drop offs from haulers and donations from the public, as well as a recovery team at the nearby transfer station.
They are very profitable, employ a full time staff, and pay haulers and the public for high quality good condition items.
They have by now spawned a number of smaller copycat stores in the area, with somewhat more specialized focuses.

As a hauler myself, I face plenty of competition in this area from other haulers who, like myself, run their trucks on vegetable oil and donate / recycle / reuse and sell as much of what we pick up as possible.

Far from just making an incredible difference environmentally (both preventing landfill and reducing the need for new materials being made), it also makes great financial sense for everyone involved.
People shopping at a reuse store pay a fraction of what they would, many times for materials which are in excellent condition - sometimes never even used!
As a hauler, I pay much less in dump fees than I would if I simply disposed of everything in one place.
And that means that I in turn can afford to charge my customers a lot less.
Everyone wins.
I hope before long every city can take this concept as much for granted as we are able to here.
Until then, keep up the good work, reporting on stuff like this.

Low Rent High Tech


One form of affordable and green housing which everyone always over looks is the RV park.

RVs as transportation are woefully inefficient, but keep one in one place...

RVs are designed to be able to run off of their own battery power and propane tanks off the grid for weeks or even months at a time.
Things like absorption cycle fridges and a tankless toilet (which have high premiums in home versions) come standard.

An RV uses less than 1/25th the electricity of the average American home, and around and 1/15th the average water.

At the same time, it is by far the least expensive (non-subsidized) form of housing. Both in the San Francisco Bay Area and 10 miles out of Manhattan (two of the most expensive areas in the country, where 1 bdrm apts can go for over $1500 a month) an RV space (with full hook-ups for water, electricity, phone, internet, cable, sewer, plus garbage and mail service) can be had for just over $400.

America Incarcerated

I was very happy with my first ever issue of Utne, especially the unusually straight-forward and un-biased article on the issues surrounding the US prison system.  Expect a subscription after I finish this letter.

There were, however, a couple of points I wanted to add.


<entire blog at MySpace>

Posted By Bakari

The Amish, especially those of the Old Order, are probably best known for their avoidance of certain modern technologies. The avoidance of items such as automobiles and electricity is largely misunderstood. The Amish do not view technology as evil. Individuals may petition for acceptance of a particular technology in the local community. In some communities, the church leaders meet annually to review such proposals. In others, it is done whenever necessary. Because the Amish, like some Mennonite groups, and unlike the Catholic or Anglican Churches, do not have a hierarchical governing structure, differing communities often have different ideas as to which technological items are acceptable.


Electricity, for instance, is viewed as a connection to, and reliance on, "the World", the "English", or "Yankees" (the outside world), which is against their doctrine of separation. The use of electricity also could lead to the use of worldly household appliances such as televisions, which would complicate the Amish tradition of a simple life, and introduce individualist competition for worldly goods that would be destructive of community. In certain Amish groups, however, electricity can be used in very specific situations: for example, if electricity can be produced without access to outside power lines. Twelve-volt batteries, with their limited applications, are acceptable to these groups. Electric generators can be used for welding, recharging batteries, and powering milk stirrers. In certain situations, outdoor electrical appliances may be used: lawn mowers (riding and hand-pushed) and string trimmers, for example. Some Amish families have non-electric versions of vital appliances, such as kerosene-powered refrigerators.

Amish communities often adopt compromise solutions involving technology which may seem strange to outsiders. For example, many communities will allow gas-powered farm equipment such as tillers or mowers, but only if they are pushed by a human or pulled by a horse. The reasoning is that Amish farmers will not be tempted to purchase more land in order to outcompete other farmers in their community if they still have to move the equipment manually. Many Amish communities also accept the use of chemical pesticides and GM crops, forgoing more common Amish organic farming techniques.


The Ordnung is the guide to community standards, rather than doctrine that defines sin. For example, the four Old Order Amish communities of Allen County, Indiana, are more conservative than most; they use open buggies, even during the winter, and they wear black leather shoes even in the hot summer. The restrictions are not meant to impose suffering. In the 1970s, for example, a farmer near Milan Center, Indiana, was ordered by his bishop to buy a conventional tractor. He had severe progressive arthritis and, with no sons to harness the horses for him, the tractor was seen as a need, rather than a vanity. The rest of the community continued farming with horses.


<excerpted from Wikipedia - entire blog at MySpace>