05 April 2014

Highlights of A Song of Ice and Fire: Religion

poster for an earlier season
The fourth season of the HBO TV series Game of Thrones premieres tomorrow, and I decided to write a series of posts on A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's book series the show is based on.

I've written a few times before about Game of Thrones, leveling criticism, mapping a fanciful comparison, and discussing narrative and history. In this series though, I'm being more straightforward: I'm writing about three themes in the books—two enjoyable ones, and one worthy of critique.

There are two thematic highlights that I really enjoy in A Song of Ice and Fire: The first I wrote about was history. Now I'll continue with religion.

Note: There won't be any plot spoilers here. I promise.

21 March 2014

Non-Profitization of Major Corporations

Walmart is arguably the world's
largest company.
Here's a brief, rough, unpolished, and unevidenced thought: (You get the idea.)

One small change to how the world economy is structured could make a big difference in bettering democracy and achieving greater economic justice. All I propose is as follows:

All of the huge, multinational corporations around the globe should be beheaded. These major corporations should be forced to become non-profits.

The idea is simple: Create an international mandate to remove owners, investors, and shareholders from a select number of the world's largest companies. Leave everything else intact. All of the profits that these huge companies generate from then on—profits that otherwise would have gone to owners and shareholders—will instead be passed on to employees, consumers, or charities in the form of higher wages, lower prices, or donations.

The companies can continue to invest in themselves to further their interests, but their beheading, so to speak—or their "non-profitization"—would redirect their massive profits toward common people, rather than financial elites.

Yes, I know this idea is outrageous, impossible, or both, but I just wanted to write it down as a thought. Let me know what you think.

28 February 2014

Highlights of A Song of Ice and Fire: History

HBO key art for Season 4
In preparation for the fourth season of the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, premiering April 6, I've decided to write a series of posts on A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's book series the show is based on.

I've written a few times now on this blog about Game of Thrones, launching a popular critique, mapping a fanciful comparison to Alaska, and musing about narrative and historical theory. This time, however, I'll keep things more straightforward: I'm writing about three themes in the books. Two I heartily enjoy, and one I think is worthy of critique.

Besides the obvious joys of plot twists, dynamic characters, and vivid details, there are two huge highlights that I enjoy in A Song of Ice and Fire—the history and the religion. Let's start with the history.

Note: There won't be any plot spoilers here. I promise.

20 February 2014

"Family Visibility" Across Countries and Cultures

families and musicians on the
metro in Mexico City
One thing I noticed while in Mexico was how many kids there were—riding the metro, walking about with their parents, or even going around trying to sell things. Compare this to the United States, where one typically seems to see children out in public only at child-specific places, like schools, playgrounds, sports fields, and so on. To be sure, Mexico does have a younger population than the U.S., (about 30% of the population under 18, compared to 24% in the U.S.), but what I saw was true in France as well: Both Mexico and France appear to have higher "family visibility" than the U.S.—and I wonder why this is.

"Family visibility" may also vary dramatically between communities: One town might have a culture of more families going for walks, and another might be totally dominated by car culture—even more than usual. It could also vary significantly according to the day of the week: One reason I might have seen so many kids in Mexico City was that I was there on Sunday, apparently the typical "family day" for outings and so on. I was also in Oaxaca during Día de Muertos celebrations, so families may have brought out their kids more for that special occasion.

What are your thoughts about "family visibility"? Have you been to different countries and thought it differed between them? My perspective is a pretty limited one, so please leave a comment and start a conversation.

09 February 2014

Review of Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang

the two volumes of Boxers & Saints
image source
Today I finished reading the graphic novel Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang. It was a good read—and a quick one—with engaging illustrations and a great concept behind it of viewing the Boxer Rebellion from two intertwined perspectives.

These perspectives are related in two short volumes titled Boxers and Saints. Boxers tells the story of a village boy who comes to lead men into battle as part of the Yihequan, or the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists (the "Boxers"). Saints tells the story of a village girl who converts to Christianity and helps the refugees fleeing the Boxers.

I found a lot of positives in this graphic novel, but I wasn't entirely blown away by it, either. I'd recommend reading it to almost anyone, but let me explain my thoughts first:

06 February 2014

Mapping Indigenous Autonyms in Canada

Half a year ago, I wrote about the project "Map of Our Tribal Nations." The map displayed (or attempted to display) all of the indigenous nations that inhabited the lands now making up the Lower 48, naming them by their autonyms (names for themselves in their own languages).

At the time, creator Aaron Carapella promised he would later publish a map of all Canada's indigenous nations and their names. Since then, he has—the Canadian First Nations Map—and afterward he encouraged me to review it. Now I will.

Hygge in Ketchikan, Alaska

morning snow back in December
Denmark lies at the same latitude as Southeast Alaska. We have the same darkness, and probably some of the same cold winter weather. This is the first time in five years I'm spending the winter in Ketchikan, and I have to say it feels nice. Most people in the world probably wouldn't like spending a winter in Alaska—even in relatively balmy Ketchikan. I, however, have always felt that it was very comfortable here during the dark season, which brings me to the concept of "hygge."

14 January 2014

Disputing "Eleanor Roosevelt's" "Great Minds" Quote

A while ago I saw someone share the following quote:

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." — Eleanor Roosevelt

From the start, I didn't think this quote sounded like something Eleanor Roosevelt would say. (I would think she was too caught up promoting human rights to get down to categorizing people in a demeaning way like that.) Apparently my hunch was right: The quote is almost surely misattributed. Of course, it's usually very difficult to prove that a particular person never said a certain string of words, but it's certain in this case that they at least did not originate with Eleanor. (This is why I have "Eleanor Roosevelt" in scare quotes in the title.)

While some people may find this quote appealing—and I may have even liked it in the past—now I don't think it's a positive saying at all. Let me explain.