Sunday, December 03, 2006

DECEMBER 3 NEW YORK TIMES

Today was a particularly good day in the New York Times. I am not even going to blog the fantastically stupid Ethicist. It is not in the top five articles in today's paper. That is something. By the way, the Ethicist is really tremendously stupid this week. Really. In any case, I will try to gather this week's articles by theme.

First, we have a very interesting article on a man in Queens who carves for Greek Orthodox churches. He carves the iconostases in Greek churches, as well as bishops' thrones, baptismal fonts, pillars and other wood in orthodox churches. The story also describes carvings of symbols largely absent in the Western church, such as two-headed eagles and peacocks with furled tail-feathers. They must be incredible. By the way, the two gentlemen who work in his shop are Romanian and Ecuadorean, respectively and carve for Greek Orthodox churches. God bless America.

Next, speaking of religion, the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, California has voted to leave the Episcopal Church and seek "alternative oversight" in the Anglican Communion. The article runs through the opposing sides of the issue, and can be read here. The part I really liked was this quote:

The step is likely to provoke legal battles in civil and ecclesiastical courts over whether the diocese has the right to divorce itself from the denomination and over who owns the diocese’s assets. Another pressing issue is what will happen to parishes and clergy members in the diocese who do not want to disassociate from the church.

“This is unprecedented territory and will take the careful consideration of all parties involved,” a spokesman for the Episcopal Church, Bob Williams, said yesterday.

Ah yes, unprecedented. In fact, no Anglican has ever figured out how to hash out ownership of Church property or even how to suppress dissidents. Truly, this is unprecedented territory.

As long as we are talking about religious leadership, the Times had an interesting piece on B16's visit to Turkey last week. Apparently the writer was expecting B16 to go to Turkey and cast all of the Muslim demons into hell with a flick of his wand. Instead, B16 went into a mosque and prayed, and generally had a visit that people compared to being parallel to JPII's prayer at the Wailing Wall, with the leader of the billion Catholics reaching out to the Muslim world as his predecessor did to the Jewish world. Hot tip to the New York Times: one of the reasons that Ratzinger's name changed to B16 when he became Pope is that it is a different job, and the Pope is expected to be a peacemaker and a man who seeks dialogue. Meanwhile there is a Cardinal whose job it is to constantly remind us all of the Church's doctrine.

If we are talking Turkey, we should talk about this piece, which thoughtfully talks to a few of Germany's (B16's home country) 2.7 million Turks. The Turks have some interesting opinions. For instance, only 60% of Turks in Germany favor Turkey's entry into the European Union. Apparently it would be too expensive and would take resources from . . . the Turkish community in Germany. Some people interviewed are against membership for Romania and Bulgaria too. In other words, I am in the first world now, and I gots to keep my green! This may actually be a better sign of integration into German culture than any I have heard in a long time. More Turks in Germany than ever before (perhaps) identify their interests with Germany's interests, and not Turkey's. If only the French could say this of their minority populations.

Speaking of immigrants, this piece explores the possibility that heavy immigration has actually cut crime in the United States. This is counterintuitive to many of us, with Asian and Latin gangs seeming to have arisen in the last 10 or 15 years. However, some statistics have indicated that places like El Paso, San Diego, Little Village in Chicago, and parts of New York and Miami, violent crimes among Hispanics is lower than among non-Hispanic whites or blacks. There is a lot of controversy about this thesis. For instance, are crimes in Latin neighborhoods under-reported? Maybe. In fact probably. Also, second and third generations of immigrant families are much more likely to commit violent crimes than the first generation. In other words, they assimilate to American culture all too well. Long and the short of it? Interesting article fleshing out an interesting point, so read it.

As long as we are talking about ordering society in the United States, this is a funny article about the regulation of alcohol in Maine. Maine has apparently banned beer with obscene labels from being sold in the state, including Santa's Butt Winter Porter, and Les Sans Culottes French blonde ale. The Santa's Butt was banned because it might entice children (apparently kids into asses), while Les Sans Culottes was banned because its label showed a woman not wearing a shirt properly. Of course, the name Les Sana Culottes is closely associated with the topless broad in question, but Maine apparently has not chosen to over-fund art history in the state. Jeez Louise.

Now that we mention unloved masterpieces, the always fantastic Keeping Score column actually has a statistical argument for the Minnesota Twins to sign Barry Bonds. The argument is that statistically speaking signing Bonds is likely to create about five wins for a team next year. Thus, parameter one is that a team that need five wins to move up a notch should sign Bonds. Minnesota, check. Second, Bonds is likely to be a draw if he approaches Aaron's home run record. Bonds is 21 homers behind Aaron, and the statistics predict a twenty-five home run season for next year. Thus, parameter two is that the team need to fill seats at the end of the year. The Twinkies had over 20,000 empty seats a game in August and September. Minnesota, check. Finally, the Twinkies are typically unwilling to commit lots of money over a long period of time. If Bonds plays two years, it will be surprising. Minnesota, check.

Well, if we are talking about finding unusual deals, this article about the real estate market is next. The article is about problem houses, mostly costing over one million dollars. One, this is sweet, is painted like the inside of a medieval tent, with jungle scenes in the hallways. Yours for only $2.3 million. The article also discusses the fact that houses with expressways for backyards, houses with illegal additions, and houses with asbestos insulation are harder to sell. Very informative. Who knew that having asbestos-lined pipes with the Garden State Parkway rolling through the backyard would cause you to have to lower your asking price?

Finally, as long as we are discussing property, the Times carried this piece on street grids in New York and the boroughs. It is an essay that a guy wrote about riding his bike from Manhattan, land of the street grid, to Queens, which is apparently a free-for-all. The writer equates the diversity of Queens with the lack of a grid, which probably overstates the issue, but it is a nice essay and worth your time.

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