Frontier Former Editor

April 11, 2008

On mortality

Filed under: God, humanism — Tags: , — Frontier Former Editor @ 2:46 pm

One can laugh and laugh, and then something like this comes along:

The Guardian, Tuesday April 1 2008

The German photographer Walter Schels thinks it not only odd, but wrong that death is so hidden from view. Aged 72, he’s also keenly aware that his own death is getting closer. Which is why, a few years ago, he embarked on a bizarre project. He decided to shoot a series of portraits of people both before and after they had died. The result is a collection of photographs of 24 people – ranging from a baby of 17 months to a man of 83 – that goes on show in London next week. Alongside the portraits are the stories of the individuals concerned, penned by Beate Lakotta, Schels’ partner, who spent time with the subjects in their final days and who listened as they told her how it felt to be nearing the end of their lives.

Photos here

March 31, 2008

Nothing new under the sun

Filed under: ancient history, doomed to repeat, history, humanism — Tags: , , — Frontier Former Editor @ 12:29 am

No humor in this.

With all the relatively recent hue and cry over Darfur, Kosovo, Iraq and other places, I have to let my head drop a bit at the idea of young folk acting if somehow they have single-handedly discovered genocide as they wear their ‘save Darfur’ shirts and shout anti-war invective. All fine and well that they may be developing social conscience, but this obituary in Sunday’s International Herald Tribune is a reminder of how change remains the same.

Dith Pran, a photojournalist for The New York Times whose gruesome ordeal in the killing fields of Cambodia was re-created in a 1984 movie that gave him an eminence he tenaciously used to press for his people’s rights, died in New Brunswick, New Jersey on Sunday. He was 65 and lived in Woodbridge, New Jersey

The cause was pancreatic cancer, which had spread, said his friend Sydney Schanberg.

Dith saw his country descend into a living hell as he scraped and scrambled to survive the barbarous revolutionary regime of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, when as many as two million Cambodians — a third of the population — were killed, experts estimate. Dith survived through nimbleness, guile and sheer desperation.

Many of us have probably thought we discovered cruelty in our world, but the true discovery is that cruelty has been around as long as we have.

It doesn’t mean the young – or the old for that matter – shouldn’t fight it, but making the fight a fad eventually creates numbness and short attention span.

When younger folk start protesting China’s behavior in Tibet this spring, they might want to consider just how long repression has been a part of life under the Chinese Communists and pretty much every regime and dynasty before them.

And, given mankind’s general record around the world, that’s just for starters.

December 6, 2007

We live in a truly enlightened age . . . . my ass

Things have been a little off in my world lately, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that Barbara Walters has done a great service to the world – she’s shown just how low the state of education in this country has fallen.

Case in point, Sherry Shepherd . . . .


Ms. Shepherd’s recent observations that Christianity predates even Greek and early Roman civilization and quite possibly man and dinosaurs is a great relief to me.  I was wondering just how stupid that American society has become, and Shepherd has graciously provided a quantifiable benchmark to measure that stupidity.


September 3, 2007

I’ve been mean to Larry Craig, and he deserves it . . .

Filed under: Editorial, humanism, I'm not gay, Larry Craig, politics, public restrooms — Frontier Former Editor @ 8:03 pm

but not because of what may be misconstrued remarks on my part.

In and of itself, one’s sexuality is not really a concern for me. Straight, gay, lesbian, bi . . . I’ve got other things to worry about. If I’m going to like or dislike somebody, there’s better reasons to do so.

If Larry Craig was gay and had been trolling for consensual sex in a bar or other appropriate social setting . . . the power to him.


April 13, 2007

Whether you’re a believer, agnostic or athiest, how can you argue against this?

Filed under: be all you can be, humanism, Not-so satanic verses, philosophy, Vonnegut — Frontier Former Editor @ 1:20 pm

Kurt Vonnegut,  09-22-03, via Rain

 “Do you know what a Humanist is? I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that functionless capacity. We Humanists try to behave well without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. We serve as best we can the only abstraction with which we have any real familiarity, which is our community.”

May 6, 2006

Edward L. Henson, Jr.

Filed under: history, humanism, humor, old college days — Frontier Former Editor @ 7:35 pm

Part of my outrage on this blog in the last few days was fueled by the death of a professor of mine, Dr. Edward L. Henson, Jr.

Long before John Candy showed up in a John Hughes movie and claimed the sobriquet, Dr. Henson earned the nickname Uncle Buck among my classmates at what was then Clinch Valley College.

And our Uncle Buck wasn’t some fat lovable slob in Chi-town.

Buck Henson was probably the finest instructor, finest gentleman and finest American I’d ever known. And if I could ever overcome my weaknesses as a human being, Buck Henson is the kind of person I’d most want to be.

Buck lived a long life, and the last decade left so many of us who knew him in a prelude to mourning as his faculties faded.

But a quarter-century ago, Uncle Buck was a force of nature. Well over 6 feet tall, he dressed very conservatively, carried an old leather briefcase to and from classes, and wielded a ferocious intellect sharpened with a friendly, gentlemanly manner and a sense of humor that could immobilize an entire roomful of people.

My favorite Buck Henson story was in the spring of 1984. I was under a great deal of stress, facing six final exams and completion of my history paper for graduation.

Many of us in the department’s class of 1984 shared several classes that spring, and the usual suspects inhabited Buck’s U.S. diplomatic history class one morning. One of our compatriots, Hank Williams, Jr. (not the singer, but a well-respected and extraordinarily shy man) was first in the lineup for the day’s class presentations on various figures in the nation’s diplomatic history.

As Hank took his station at the podium, we all heard Buck’s deep-throated chuckle from the back of the room. The chuckling built, as we all looked at each other in a confused manner. Hank got nervous and began checking his shirt buttons and zipper.

After three or four minutes, Henson grinned and said the most memorable phrase I’d ever heard in college or graduate school.

“Mr. Williams, I don’t know whether to ask you to give your presentation on Sumner Welles or to sing three bars of “My Cheating Heart.””

Long before that, Buck had earned my undying respect for his ability to humanize history and show his love for his country while being quite willing to make the most direct, dispassionate, articulate criticisms for the idiotic acts committed in the name of democracy at various times throughout the last 230 years.

And Buck was just as willing to admire the great things of this country. Buck loved his family, his community, his country and mankind.

Buck was an infantry officer in Europe just weeks after Germany surrendered, and his tales of duty on the Italian-Yugoslavian frontier left one wondering just what American leaders were thinking after they had conquered the most evil force of mankind to that point. His were not stories of fire-breathing, God-fearing patriotism. They were stories – sometimes funny, sometimes surreal, sometimes sad -of a 20-year old man coming to grips with a world outside Virginia.

My agnosticism doesn’t mean I reject the idea of a God. And if there is one, I truly hope that he or she or it has eased Buck Henson’s suffering in reward for the effect he has had on so many people.

May 5, 2006

Just a slight clarification to the previous night’s entry.

Filed under: humanism, Not-so satanic verses, religion — Frontier Former Editor @ 8:38 pm

I’m not against religion, although I’m a pleasantly maladjusted agnostic.

What I am against is the attempt in recent decades for a right leaning segment of American Christianity to co-opt this country into a theocracy in all but name.

I’m tired of a religious hucksterism practiced by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. I’m tired of religious intolerance regardless of whether it’s practiced by Muslim, Christian or any other faith or sect.

While the religious right in this country goes on about how this was a nation founded upon a Christian God (with the obligatory self-serving equivalent ‘and on the god of our Jewish friends’) they also show a strong ignorance or intentional dismissal of Thomas Jefferson’s classic Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom. If you haven’t read it, it makes far more sense than some of the stuff that passes for intellectual political discussion these days.

I am, however, in favor of the people of this country being able to observe their own faith or creed under a basic set of rights. Civil responsibility and morality flow from the recognition that we all have those rights, not from a government telling us that they know best even as they trample those rights and ignore their own responsibility and accountability to us.

April 6, 2006

Ever wake up and feel like you’re in medieval times?

Filed under: Be HEALED!, humanism, religion — Frontier Former Editor @ 6:40 am

Before I ramble on, I’ll say now that I have no reason to attack anyone for having religious beliefs.

My problem is a world in which religion is increasingly crowding out the most basic rational thought and even proven scientific principles.

I wish I could remember the name of this guy and his exact quote, but a paraphrase of it goes: you can’t look at a sunrise or sunset and not believe in God.

And this has an inherent truth: something started all of this. But that something also introduced randomness and messiness into a perfect earth. Why do we have leap year? Why did the tsunami throw off the earth’s rotation by a fraction of a second a year?

But at the same time, I hear it from a lot of people in my community: God is punishing society for homesexuality/genetic engineering/secular humanism/insert your wordly behavior of choice.

And I hear it just as often: the King James Bible is the absolute, literal word and law of God.

No, the King James Bible was a government committee project that somehow managed to include some worthwhile thoughts and some beautiful turns of phrases. But it’s still a translation and interpretation of many previous translations and interpretations of ancient writings. Who knows how much has been added, lost or twisted in the intervening centuries?

Even though it’s a movie quote, I think Spencer Tracy’s line in “Inherit the Wind” still has merit: “It’s a book, a good book, but not the only book.”

Never write a blog entry less than 10 minutes after waking up . . . .

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