Cover Meme

Ambivalent Academic tagged me with the cover meme running around: best and worst cover ever.

I was torn, oh, so torn. I mean, everybody knows that the best cover ever is a twofer: “Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go.” Okay, a lot of people don’t actually know that those were both covers. (Trivia: because Soft Cell released “Tainted Love” as a single with “Where Did Our Love Go” on the B-side, they didn’t make any money off of all those sales. Money flows to the writer, not the recording artist for that.)

And of course, there are Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, who do mostly thrashed up covers of beloved classics. And the fact that there are very few Beatles songs I don’t prefer performed by someone else.

In the end, it came down to the bad cover. As much as I love Satchmo, I firmly believe he did the world a great disservice when he jazzed up “Mack the Knife.” Some things aren’t meant to be pretty. Some people (and characters) aren’t meant to be antiheroes. MacHeath is one of those. Kurt Weill knew that singing about something wasn’t the same thing as endorsing it, but you’d never know that from the long parade of jazz covers.

Bobby Darin

The full version is well worth a listen. It’s one of those songs that always lives on my Nano, no matter what else rotates on and off.

Now, who to tag. I’ll have to go with Mike and Lou, Crystal and Muse, I think. And thanks, AA. This one was too much fun.

Cover Meme

Atheists Talk–The Books of Bart Ehrman

Bart Ehrman: God’s Problem
Atheists Talk #0072, Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bart Ehrman is a scholar of the bible and has published popular works at a rapid clip on the subjects of theodicy and the literary history of the books some refer to as “scripture.” He was an evangelical who believed that the Episcopalian church in which he was raised was too tame on the teachings of Jesus’ word of salvation. Dedicating himself to the study of the original Greek versions of the Gospels and New Testaments in order to better understand the word of God, he made the discovery that (whoops!) the Bible couldn’t be an inerrant instruction manual. There were too many inconsistencies, too many obvious copying errors in the translations and too many differences in the theologies contained within the books we call the New Testament for it to be a coherent work of God. He has since become agnostic, strongly convinced that even if there be a creator, it is certainly not the one painted by our Christian religions.

Scott Lohman and Grant Steves bring their intellectual prowess to bear in discussing the books of Bart Ehrman for this program. Grant and Scott are both impressed by Ehrman’s writing, and they are entertaining thinkers and speakers on the subjects of literature and theology. This is sure to be a fun show as they discuss Ehrman’s books.

“Atheists Talk” is produced by The Minnesota Atheists. Mike Haubrich, Director. Stephanie Zvan, Host.

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Atheists Talk–The Books of Bart Ehrman

Diversity and Conflict

We don’t like conflict. We try to avoid it instead of learning how to engage in it appropriately and productively, and the end result of our incompetence is horrendous enough to fully reinforce our avoidance.

This is a problem.

It’s particularly a problem for those of us who value cultural diversity and recognition of human equality. The easiest recipe for avoiding conflict is to allow one person or homogeneous group to define the “right side” of any disagreement. Obviously, that’s not an option for us.

It’s Friday, which means I’m blogging at Quiche Moraine. Today’s post takes a look at some of the roots of poor conflict management in, oh, a number of the communities I’m part of.

Diversity and Conflict

Goliath’s Rules

One of the fun parts of WisCon is always getting to meet people I should have met long ago. This year, I finally got to spend a little time talking to Lynne and Michael Thomas. Amusingly, I found a link to the following article on Lynne’s blog while checking out how productive she’d been at WisCon.

David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time. The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases. That is a remarkable fact. Arreguín-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time.

In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David initially put on a coat of mail and a brass helmet and girded himself with a sword: he prepared to wage a conventional battle of swords against Goliath. But then he stopped. “I cannot walk in these, for I am unused to it,” he said (in Robert Alter’s translation), and picked up those five smooth stones. What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.

It’s a fascinating New Yorker article on how effective throwing away the rules–particularly the unacknowledged ones–can be and on the consequences of breaking them. Keep reading past the chunk in the middle that’s padded with a business profile. Some of the best parts are at the end.

Goliath’s Rules


I did something odd this weekend. I saw a friend’s book for sale, and I didn’t buy it. Not because I didn’t want it. Not because I didn’t want to port it home 250+ miles. Certainly not because I couldn’t afford it.

I was being nice.

It wasn’t officially out yet, and there were only a few copies. Besides, I can get a copy signed any time I want, more or less, and most of the people at WisCon only had access to Kelly for the weekend.

Today, however, MythOS by Kelly McCullough is officially out, and everyone can grab a copy of their own. I highly recommend it and not just because Kelly’s one of my best friends or because I had some tiny little influence on the final product. I recommend it because Kelly is one of the few writers I’ve read who can write a romp with serious thematic elements. I have to point them out to him sometimes, but they’re there, and neither they nor the wild ride of a story are compromised by fitting both in.

Don’t let yourself be put off by the “Book 4 of 5” in the promotions. MythOS takes Ravirn and Melchior out of their normal Greek milleiu and drops them somewhere rather different. There’s plenty of time to get your bearings as they get theirs. In fact, you may find Loki and Fenris more familiar than they do…sort of. The hand of Tyr, however, will surprise you, no matter how well you know your Norse myths.

You can check out the first chapter on Kelly’s site, and there’s an interview of sorts with him at SFNovelists, where you can find out what kind of character he is. Or you can just go pick up the book. It’s worth it, I promise.


Fallen Warriors

It’s tempting to pretend that “culture war” is just a colorful turn of phrase. It isn’t. People have died every time our country has been persuaded to recognize the right of another group to be considered full human beings.

I’m doing something a little different for Memorial Day over at Quiche Moraine. That is to say, it’s not a standard Memorial Day post. Those who have been reading me for a while (or even just very lately), may recognize a theme.

Fallen Warriors

Non-Gender-Based Thoughts on Rules

Because, you know, I’m not writing enough about them myself. Actually, though, these are great to see, since they’re getting that my topic wasn’t just the discussion of gender roles.

Phil got something out of the post that I never intended to suggest. It’s no less intriguing for that (and maybe more so).

Having read it, I think I am beginning to see the torture debate in much sharper, and perhaps more sinister focus. If, as Stephanie suggests, this debate about the “legality” of the torture actions by that Administration is really a mask for a cultural debate, it makes more sense why the “Law & Order” Republicans are so hung up on excusing law breaking by their highest elective officials. It would also explain why so many former Bush Administration folks are so prominently attacking Mr. Obama these days.

And William posted a link to this TED talk about rules, punishment, ideology and conflict.

I have a few nits to pick with it, like the fact that liberals do not reject punishment and rules out of hand. Just ask any of us how we feel about the financial industry. Also, the Dalai Lama wields moral clout in the West largely because people don’t know that a system of serfs was required to sustain all those Tibetan monasteries in their quest to disconnect from the world. That’s kind of important to know. On the other hand, the nits don’t mean there isn’t plenty to think about in the talk.

Non-Gender-Based Thoughts on Rules