- The Washington Times - Monday, July 19, 2010

Artistic freedom

“When you say to people in New York: ‘I think were going to go do our show in Vegas,’ its a little like if you were a fine artist and you said to your painter friends: ‘I think from now on I am only going to paint pictures of Jesus Christ and Elvis on velvet in fluorescent paint.’ They look at you like puppies watching TV.

“But then you come out here and it turns out, as insane as this is, that you have more artistic freedom in Las Vegas than you have in New York. Much more. And the reason is this. In Vegas, our investors dont [care] about us. The people who are our bosses see our show maybe once a year. One of them will bring their kids and come by. And they are pleasant and they love us and they sincerely enjoy the show. Then they leave and they dont think about us.

“And because nobodys paying attention we do exactly the show we want. As long as people come to see it nobody cares what we do. And it means that we have done wilder things and more new stuff here than we ever did in New York. The contract is 100 percent between us and the audience. And thats crazy.”

- Penn Jillette, quoted in “Penn and Teller interview” by Benjamin Secher, in the Telegraph on July 9

No reconciliation

” ‘Reconciliation’ has become a darling of political theorists, journalists, and human-rights activists, especially as it pertains to the rebuilding of post-war and post-genocidal nations. Nowhere is this more so than in the case of Rwanda. Numerous books and articles on the topic - some, though not all, inspired by Christian teachings - pour forth. It can plausibly be argued, of course, that in Rwanda - and in other places, like Sierra Leone and the Balkans, where victims and perpetrators must live more or less together - reconciliation is a political necessity. Reconciliation has a moral resonance, too; certainly it is far better than endless, corpse-strewn cycles of revanchism and revenge.

“Yet there is sometimes a disturbing glibness when outsiders tout the wonders of reconciliation, as if they are leading the barbarians from darkness into light. Even worse, the phenomenological realities - the human truths - of the victims experiences are often ignored or, at best, treated as pathologies that should be ‘worked through’ until the promised land of forgiveness is reached. This is not just a mistake but a dangerous one; for it is doubtful that any sustainable peace, and any sustainable politics, can be built without a better, which is to say a tragic, understanding of those truths.”

- Susie Linfield, writing on “Living With the Enemy,” in the July issue of Guernica magazine

Making Mormonism

“Finally, let me add … that a crucial ingredient in Mormonisms current global success and growth as a religion lies in … the fact that the Federal government invested Utah and the Mormon church in what was, in many respects, an act of naked imperialism. It … imposed outside barriers upon its wilder and stranger practices - plural marriage above all. It was brutal. It was unjust and not exactly a nod toward religious accommodation. But, seen historically, it had the effect of forcing Mormonism to re-think its relation to the rest of the country and eventually the rest of the world. It broke Mormonism beyond its strange and parochial boundaries. But, note, to its ultimate benefit.

“It both forced it … but also allowed it, to find a new institutional settlement with respect to the rest of society and the place of a still somewhat weird religious group in the world, but not of it. I rather doubt that would have happened had the influences of todays multiculturalism and fashionable relativism allowed 19th century Utah to wall itself off far more thoroughly from the rest of American society. I suspect it would be isolated in something like the way the Amish are isolated to this day. This is deeply problematic, of course, because taken as such, the observation is that coercive measures to which religious adherents would not consent … might ultimately redound to the religions benefit by remaking parts of it. It raises the unattractive possibility, I acknowledge, that this is merely a proposal to destroy the village in order to save it.”

- Kenneth Anderson, writing on “Mormons in the Financial Times” on July 18 at the Volokh Conspiracy

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