Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday Reader: 1/13/08

To start today's post, I'm including two posts I found this morning in my Google Reader and hope you'll enjoy them as well!


A dollar a day is an interesting charitable idea that encourages companies to add a penny to their services that is then donated to a children's charity working with kids with AIDs. So, great idea - in general it probably won't work too well, but anyplace that people tip it could be pretty effective if it were added to the bill. I'd do this and I bet most of you would, too. Perhaps if it took on, the charities would be expanded, too.

Green Cities

Foodshed Planet reminds us that there's a drought in Georgia, despite the ways people have of trying to ignore it. Apparently pools and and events at Piedmont Park are cancelled this summer. Pretty grim, especially since I wonder if Alpharetta's family pools will be fully full? But she rightly points out that Atlanta is a city in desperate need of environmental ideas and the only one I can think of lately is that great Beltline project which drags along. Seriously, I've had two careers since it was halfway through its planning stages. :-)

Bad Money Advice (?)

Money mag lets a beleaguered questioner know that if you can only buy 15-20 shares of something, he's better off in mutual funds. None of his answers were terribly convincing: first, I've done the investing when you have the $150 this reader had and have been quite successful; second, the writer doesn't mention Sharebuilder which (despite its faults) lets you buy incrementally for a great price; third, the writer assumes that the buyer doesn't know enough which is absurd because a little research is all that's needed. What do I have against mutual funds? They have large fees (1-2%) and often don't outperform the market effectively. If you don't know what you're doing, buy the index. But, if you really don't know what you're doing, buy what you know. If a company puts out products you and your friends swear by and the industry isn't tanking, they're probably a good buy. (Actually, if the industry is tanking, but we'll recover, it's a terrific buy.) So shame on Money magazine for mystifying the investing process and shorting this guy's retirement!

Prosecuting Terrorism

Thoughtful piece on the legal principles involved in the Padilla case and others like it. I don't know enough to really comment on it, though I should since it's the issue of our day. But my first reaction is to wonder, as he does, where we draw the line between prevention and prosecution as prevention. And that gets to his most profound point: we should be drawing up principles to address this issue so that people can have an informed opinion on it and we're certain that we've treated everyone the way our idealistic principles demand.


Despite giving away the ending this editorial examines the ideas about sexuality behind the new film "Juno" (which looks great). Considering the treatment that Jamie Lynn Spears has been receiving for her teenage pregnancy, it's an issue that should be explored. Lately, I've been paying a lot of attention to feminism so the argument intrigued me. More on that later, one hopes.

The Humanities vs. the New York Times

Perhaps I'm being overly harsh here in my section title. Stanley Fish proposes an idealized version of knowledge for its own sake and firmly rejects any utilitarian goals. Thus, his answer to his own question ("can the humanities save us?") is that it's absurd to expect them to. While I'm all for the idea that we should study some things because they are beautiful and worth studying and that not everything should be "commoditized," the humanities offer as much hope as science that they can shape us and, in doing so, impart the tools to save us.

Regardless, they save us from inanities such as this article which suggests the Beowulf movie (see my review Beowulf: the movie for an analysis of what it does well and how it's not really fair to call it an adaptation) does what the author should have done. Her factual errors suggest that she's not a Medievalist, but more importantly that she didn't much understand the text when she read it: Grendel's distaste for the mead hall is not something that needs to "be made sense of" because the poem actually says it's the story of creation that enrages him! Further, she suggests the movie rather explains the poem and that the movie's explanations help to provide the poem's importance. Crazy stuff! But my all time favorite line:

Purists will object that none of this is in the original, composed sometime between the seventh and 10th centuries. Well, maybe not, but it should have been.
I love how a movie which comments on our own time (more than the original time it is based on -- and to be clear I don't really have a problem with this...if it had also been a good movie) actually should be what the original poet was thinking of. I'm sure Milton purists shuddered through the rest of her article, but I couldn't bring myself to continuing reading.

Enjoy a leisurely Sunday afternoon reading!

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