Saturday, July 22, 2006

"Good Omens"

Somebody has seen the light, and Good Omens is being re-released.
It is one of the best and funniest fantasy novels ever written (DiscWorld meets Sandman), and has been a top favorite of mine for fifteen years. In fact, just a few weeks ago I bought a copy for my witch (hi Susie).

Genes and race

In response to a question from me, Pascal has posted a lengthy essay on genetics and race. Interesting. (Note: the essay/comment is a couple of comments below the original post from me.)

New Drawing

By the way, y'all are invited to comment on the artwork. Feedback is good for the artist, especially comments about specific aspects of the work.
Art by Eolake Stobblehouse. (Graphic is clickable.)
Museum grade prints available, 40x50 cm, pigment on fine art watercolor paper.
US$ 95 + s/h.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Charlie Brown: "You dogs only think about eating. You have a one-track mind."

Snoopy: "I prefer to think of it as singleness of purpose."

"What I normally do"

I just made a powerful breakthrough in goals and purposes by lying back and considering (meditating on, if you will) "What I normally do".
Maybe "What you normally do" is something you have not been doing for a long time?


Silvia Hartmann just wrote this on a mailing list, and she has permitted me to post it here.

I just heard some really bad advice from my good dead friend, Bob Ross.

And it made me want to make a public comment about that because I think he's not the only one to suffer from this misconception.

Bob said, "I advise everyone to remain constantly dissatisfied with everything you do. Because if you are constantly dissatisfied with what you're doing, that'll make you try harder and do better next time, and you never stop learning and growing that way."

Now the fact is that I've heard this sentiment expressed by many others and in many different ways before, and I think that's appalling.

What is all that learning and growing FOR, if you are constantly dissatisfied and disappointed with what you've already achieved? This leads to nothing but a life filled with DISSAPPOINTMENT - like a donkey running after a carrot tied by a stick to its head and which it can never reach, no matter how hard it runs itself into exhaustion.

You might as well just stop altogether and save yourself all that trouble and be just as dissatisfied and disappointed, without doing anything at all!

To "honour the work of the day" is one of the most important lessons I've personally ever learned.

I think it might have been a poem I found that I wrote many years ago by accident one day, and it was superb. I couldn't have done any better today, not after 25 years of studying language, experience, internal representations, state and metaphor in a professional capacity.

The thing was that I remembered writing it, and *being entirely dissatisfied with it* at the time. Angry. Horribly dissappointed with my "failure" to make the poem work.

That started me thinking that the things I do today are probably not as bad as I think they are either, and that I'm doing *some thing* in my head to devalue my efforts of the day.

Which is completely de-motivational and only leads to an ongoing sense of failure, regardless of how amazing your achievements might actually be.

Only success, in the end, leads to more success.

Success calls more success to it, and in the case of activities, such as building a business or painting a picture, it is the road to pure, unadulterated misery if we keep judging things to be faulty and full of failure, one way or the other.

You look for the good, and you'll find the good.

We all need to learn to look for the good, firstly in our own endeavours, and then let that spread out to the endeavours of others around us.

There is no other way to get ourselves and our civilisations out of the HELL we have constructed for our own selves, and for each other.

Look for success. Encourage EVERY success, then success will grow, will be right at home with you, and you'll go from strength to strength, without any fear of failure.

That's a complete fact and a real truth about our lives and the work we produce.

And I thought that was so important, I wrote an essay about it today in preference to doing anything else.

Success to all, and in all ways, Silvia Hartmann

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Heat is bad

I don't like all the heat. I never got people who love it. Are they reptiles? :)

I think I'm onto something here. If you look at the planet as a whole, the closer you get to the equator on average, the poorer people are, and the less education they have. There is something bad about the heat.

Would you fast-forward your life?

Would you fast-forward your life?

Movies and cars

Just watching Jackie Brown. It's a better movie than I remembered. I think when I watched it the first time I was looking for a similar experience to Pulp Fiction, and JB is a different beast. Totally different makeup and genes.

One thing I've always wondered: in American movies, you always have people sitting in cars "staking out" a place. And nobody ever notices them. Maybe cars in the US have special windows which make people inside invisible?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

About Lincoln, racism, and PERSPECTIVE

I got an email which confused me. Not being an American, my grasp of American history and geography is sketchy. (Though perhaps better than the average Americans, who knows.) So I asked my good friend, ace writer Del Miller, who seems to know ten times as much as me in most subjects. (How he finds the time I don't know.)

Disclaimer from Del: "I should point out that it was email response off the top of my head and not a researched essay. Still I think everything there is pretty accurate. I think that this kind of debate is healthy."

Disclaimer from me: to be honest I think any racism debate is, uh, pretty black and white. As such it does not hole my interest for long. What holds my interest though, is PERSPECTIVE, which is central to this debate. I think perspective is ESSENTIAL in all life's areas, and I post this as a comment on perspective rather than racism.



Dear Eolake,

I know you mean well, but your recent "Thought of the Day" was not good:

"Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough. -- Abraham Lincoln"

Abe Lincoln is NOT a good source for quotes. He has been "developed" by some "americans" over the years as a "good man" - but in fact, he was much the opposite.

Consider this other quote from Abraham Lincoln:

"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything." -- Abraham Lincoln

(Sorry if that bothers you. But that is Abe Lincoln's words, not mine!) If that statement does not DEFINE him as a white supremacist, I don't know what does.

There's many more examples of Lincoln's extreme bias written in the pages of history. I won't bother you with anymore of them in this message. I just wanted to educate you about the truth of the matter, and to respectfully discourage you from promoting the Lincoln lie on your website. However, if for any reason you are interested in reading any more of Lincoln's horrible racism, I will point you to the sources, so you can read them for yourself.

I enjoy your website greatly, and just don't want you to "cheer for the wrong side" (as it were).

Keep up the good work. And don't quote the racist Lincoln.




Thanks for forwarding that letter to me. As a long-time student of Lincoln I'm well aware of his statements about race that make our contemporary morals quiver; and yes, that Lincoln quote is true. There has been much debate about Lincoln's true feelings toward blacks and calls of racism have been made many times.

It is likely that Lincoln did consider the black race to be inferior to the white. Considering the times it's not that hard to imagine: Blacks were slaves for the most part, and as such were uneducated, illiterate, and without a cohesive social culture--that being taken from them by the slavemaster. In fact, there was really not much evidence contrary to the belief in negro inferiority in early nineteenth century America.

But Lincoln also believed that, inferiority in any of these ways did not matter when it came to the matter of dignity and happiness. His views on the cruelty of slavery are well documented and he abhorred it. He believed, as expressed in his personal writings, that all men should be free to live their lives without oppression-- and that included blacks. He considered negroes to be like children that should be protected and governed by their white betters or, as an option, be allowed to go back to Africa and live as an African.

Viewed from modern sensibilities this might not seem to be much of a cause for sainthood, but in those days it was a radical and dangerous view. The entire institution of slavery depended on the concept that the negro was not human; that he was an animal of sorts and this allowed Christian men to own them without compromising their eternal salvation. It was this presumption of non-humanity that justified the whip and lynching and all the other sins of slavery. The mere belief that negroes were fully human was enough to start a war.

Lincoln believed that it was terribly important for the Union to remain united as a single country and was willing to back off from his own beliefs to preserve that union. His 'racist' comment quoted in your letter was made during a political campaign against a rabid pro-slavery candidate and to make any comment even remotely anti-racist was a sure way to lose to the slavers. So there was an element of political expediency in many of his public comments at the time. His private statements, however, were much more anti-slavery and it is important to note that he was the head of the major abolitionist party in the country. During the 1860 campaign for president, uttering such beliefs openly would almost certainly have led to Southern seccession and civil war.

Many anti-slavery northerners favored letting the South secede rather than engage in a war. Lincoln was clearly of the opinion that war must come as long as the question of slavery existed. I say 'clearly' because his actions as president speak much more loudly than any campaign speech ever did. A willingness to go to war to end slavery is not typically the hallmark of a 'racist.'

It was only near the end of the civil war, when he had already signed the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery and when the outcome of the war was clear and only weeks away, that he felt free to make his own feeling widely public. In his Second Inaugural Address (One of the truly great speeches in human history, by the way) he makes his views of slavery quite clear:
"...if God wills that it [the war] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

He made it clear that slavery was a sin for which the country was being punished and his writings toward the end of his life were far more anti-slavery than were his comments from his politician days. But his private statements never really changed that much.

As I said, volumes have been written about the subject, mainly because Lincoln was killed only weeks after the war was over. Lincoln, at that time, seemed totally dedicated to the reconstruction of the south with the black man as a free and enfranchised member of society and I suspect that letters such as you received would not be written had Lincoln been given the chance to do what he wanted.

History makes an unforgiving biographer. We judge men by standards that were foreign then and apply labels that wouldn't make sense to the people of that time. Lincoln was no saint, and he compromised mightily his beliefs in his early career. True, his attitude toward negroes was paternalistic and condescending by our standards, but for that time and place also radically humanistic. But what he actually accomplished--amid a culture of incredible racism-- and what he seemed intent on securing before he died would, to me, insure his place as one of the greatest people in history.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Review sites

If you are thinking of a camera purchase, I recommend reading several reviews before deciding on which one to get. There are several excellent review sites:,, and a pretty new one: Camera Labs.
The last one I just found now, it seems to be very dependable and thorough, and readable. Funny enough it is another English site like DPreview. A lot of good stuff happening on these isles, photographically and otherwise.