Notes on cheap pens, ugly Americans, and the LA Times, along with a batch
of interesting URL's and a bibliography of books on religious conservatism.

As a periodic reminder, you can end your subscription to RRE by sending a
message that looks like this:

  Subject: unsubscribe

Answers to frequently asked questions about RRE can be found at:

One of the most complete archives of RRE messages, which Al Whaley very
kindly maintained from the list's early days, is no longer accumulating
new messages as of early October, and I don't know how much longer the
older messages will remain on Al's site.  If anyone else out there is
maintaining an archive of RRE messages, it would be excellent if you could
extend your archive by grabbing copies of all of the messages from Al's
site.  This will require you to write a little code, of course, but it'll
be a fine public service and you'll sleep better at night because of it.
The URL is:

If you do create a nearly-complete Web-based archive of past RRE messages
then I would be happy to advertise it, both on the RRE web page and in the
message that the RRE server automatically sends to new subscribers.

Since I sent out the revised version of "Books on the Social Aspects of
Computing, 1996-1997", I have made a batch of further adjustments to the
Web version.  The URL is:

I hope you'll send this URL to anyone who might benefit from it.

A few more notes on cheap pens.

Since I wrote my previous two notes on the subject of cheap pens, fans
of the Sakura Gelly Roll have been coming out of the woodwork.  They are
right -- it is an excellent pen, and cost-effective too at $1.19 a copy.
I had underestimated it at first because I had lumped it with another of
the "gel" pens, the distinctly inferior "Marvy" from Korea.  I do still
prefer the "liquid" pens as a category, but I can definitely see the point
of the Gelly Roll.

My erudite correspondents have also described more fully the evolution of
the Pilot Precise rolling ball pen.  This was one of the first, if not the
very first, of the liquid-ink rolling ball pens whose virtues I have been
extolling as if they were brand new.  I actually found an older version
of it in a box at home.  It's not very good.  The whole "precise" thing
doesn't do much for me, and the tip of the pen was far too fragile -- in
fact, the tip broke while I was writing with it.  The newer, more evolved
versions of the Pilot Precise are considerably better.  They only come in
a few generic colors, but more importantly they come in two sizes, the V5
and the V7.  With the V5 I feel as though I'm scratching on the page as
much as I'm writing on it.  The V7, however, is much better, and is truly
a joy to write with.  This is basically because it delivers a great deal
of ink.  That probably means that it doesn't last very long, but I have
not tried to compare this systematically.  It also tends to bleed when I
write on very porous surfaces such as the back of my business card.  But
it's an excellent pen overall.

One reader pointed out that Canson is a French company, and therefore that
I seemed to contradict myself in asserting both that Canson makes the best
artist's sketch pads and that good sketch pads seemingly cannot be bought
outside of the United States.  I must admit that I never thought about
this, but I also have to say that I have never seen the best hard-covered
Canson sketchpads anywhere except a very few high-end American art supply
stores, such as Pearl Art Supply on La Cienaga Boulevard in Los Angeles.

You may recall that I sent out a little essay about culturally appropriate
strategies for propagating the Internet.  My preface explained that I
wrote this essay for a magazine in Brazil, motivated by conversations
about the state of the Internet there.  In particular, I mentioned that
Brazil is a poor country with lousy schools, and that I wrote in part to
help persuade certain parts of the establishment that, notwithstanding
its virtues, the Internet is not a magical device for fixing the schools.

Reaction to this message was sharply divided.  People from non-English
speaking countries (Colombia, Brazil, Sweden, Portugal, etc) thought it
was just great.  People from English speaking countries (the US, Britain),
however, hated it.  The English-speakers went to great lengths to portray
me as that ugly American insulting or condescending to the fine people
of Brazil.  This required them to put lots of double quotes around things,
and to explain away all of the good stuff that I said about Brazil, all of
my disclaimers of expertise about that country, and all of the equivalences
I drew between that country and my own.

One of these folks, for example, took exception to my stating that Brazil
is a poor country with lousy schools, paraphrasing this as a generalized
attack on the country and its people.  The other one snarled at the phrase
"culturally appropriate" and denied (against overwhelming evidence) that
the United States had employed any "culturally appropriate" strategies for
propagating the Internet.  Both of them sought to present counterevidence
in the form of positive statements about Brazil, including statements that
I had made myself.  All of this is a little weird, given that nobody in
Brazil would disagree for one second that they live in a poor country with
lousy schools, and indeed that many Brazilians said this to me with no
prompting at all.

So what's the problem?  I can hear some Americans out there jumping up to
explain the problem in terms of political correctness and all that, but
those people can soak their heads: objections to the evils of political
correctness have become a hypocritical reflex that lets people justify
all kinds of rude behavior while telling themselves that they're actually
standing up for freedom and values and tradition and stuff.  (True story:
a self-professed "former humor writer" recently published an op-ed column
in the LA Times arguing that when liberals claim that conservatives want
to put welfare recipients out on the street, then conservatives should
up and punch them in the face.  This self-professed fan of Rush Limbaugh
also argued that liberals should be punched in the face when they insult
conservatives or refer to them as Nazis.  I absolutely swear that I am not
making this up.)

The actual problem, of course, is that the world really has seen too many
Americans who shoot off their mouths about societies that they don't know
anything about.  Every culture has its embarrassments, and that's one
of ours.  That puts the rest of us, the ones who try to be a little more
responsible, in a difficult situation.  I tried to do it right, listening
to people and circumscribing my expertise.  I knew that I risked being
interpreted as an ugly American anyway, and I felt mildly courageous in
proceeding despite the risk.  I do hope that someone somewhere might have
benefitted from my comments in some small way, and all of the (slight and
self-selected) feedback that I have received from those who are actually
affected suggests that someone might indeed have done so.  In the end,
though, it's a matter of faith.  Maybe if I try hard to be a good guy
and send out useful stuff on the Internet then it'll contribute something.
Whether I've succeeded is not for me to decide.

Now that the once-professional Los Angeles Times is merging its editorial
and advertising departments, replacing its investigative reports with
embellishments of Bob Dornan's conspiracy theories, and phasing out Conrad
for the dreadful Ramirez, the best feature in the paper is Pint-Sized
Punch Lines.  For a while they've had a feature called Punch Lines that
reprints the jokes of professional comedians who are performing around
LA, but now they've added a section of jokes by children.  The children's
jokes are usually better.  Let us compare some jokes from mid-December:

  From professional comedian Alex Kaseberg: "Rumor has it that alleged
  Unabomber Ted Kaczynski is fighting with his attorneys.  I think he
  wants to make up, though.  Today he told one of the lawyers he wanted
  to send him a Christmas card."

  From 4-year-old Sunjay Swaroop of the Tutortime Preschool in Rancho
  Santa Margarita: "What do you do when an elephant swallows you?
  Run around until you get pooped out."

You be the judge.

Here are some interesting Web sites, mostly from RRE's nice subscribers:

United States Government Electronic Commerce Policy

Digital Communities Initiative

Science Policy Study by the US House Science Committee

Bibliography on Standards and Standardization

Cyberspace Law Abstracts

Internet Mail Coalition

Internet Telecommunications Project

Brazilian art sites

GIS Law and Policy Institute

Spam (tm) site

A Network-Centric Design for Relationship-Based Rights Management
by Martin Roscheisen

Columbia Journalism Review article: Will Gates Crush Newspapers?

Automatic translation program on Alta Vista

Tobacco Documents

Ghost Sites -- very funny

Educom's Instructional Management Systems Project


Worth article on the (real and growing if rather exaggerated) divide
between religious conservatives and business interests

Network-Based Electronic Publishing of Scholarly Works:

A list of books relating to religious conservatism in the United States.

I hope it goes without saying that these books reflect a great diversity
of viewpoints, and that I could not possibly agree with all of them.
In other words, I don't want to get flamed if you disagree with any of
them yourself.  This list includes the books on the shorter list on the
same topic that I sent out a while back.

Gil Alexander-Moegerle, James Dobson's War on America, Prometheus, 1997.

Bob Altemeyer, The Authoritarian Specter, Harvard University Press, 1997.

Bruce Bawer, Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity,
Crown, 1997.

Robert Boston, The Most Dangerous Man in America?: Pat Robertson and the
Rise of the Christian Coalition, Prometheus Books, 1996.

Thomas J. Csordas, ed, Language, Charisma, and Creativity: The Ritual Life
of a Religious Movement, University of California Press, 1997.

Thomas J. Csordas, The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of
Charismatic Healing, University of California Press, 1994.

Andrew Delbanco, The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of
Evil, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1995.

Sara Diamond, Facing The Wrath: Confronting the Right in Dangerous Times,
Common Courage Press, 1996.

Sara Diamond, Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power
in the United States, Guilford Press, 1995.

Millard J. Erickson, The Evangelical Left: Encountering Postconservative
Evangelical Theology, Baker Book House, 1997.

Alec Foege, The Empire God Built: Inside Pat Robertson's Media Machine,
Wiley, 1996.

Robert C. Fuller, Naming the Antichrist: The History of an American
Obsession, Oxford University Press, 1995.

James Gilbert, Redeeming Culture: American Religion in an Age of Science,
University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Donald E. Hall, Muscular Christianity: Embodying the Victorian Age,
Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Stewart M. Hoover and Knut Lundby, eds, Rethinking Media, Religion, and
Culture, Sage, 1997.

Catherine Keller, Apocalypse Now and Then: A Feminist Guide to the End of
the World, Beacon Press, 1996.

Linda Kintz, Between Jesus and the Market: The Emotions That Matter in
Right-Wing America, Duke University Press, 1997.

Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, The Godless Constitution: The Case
Against Religious Correctness, Norton, 1996.

Dana Mack, The Assault on Parenthood: How Our Culture Undermines the
Family, Simon and Schuster, 1997.

Tanya Melich, The Republican War Against Women: An Insider's Report From
Behind the Lines, Bantam Books, 1996.

Donald E. Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity in the
New Millennium, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Joshua Mitchell, Not by Reason Alone: Religion, History, and Identity in
Early Modern Political Thought, University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in
America, second edition, Eerdmans, 1986.

Jay Newman, Religion Vs. Television: Competitors in Cultural Context,
Praeger, 1996.

Elaine Pagels, The Origin of Satan, Random House, 1995.

Ralph Reed, Active Faith: How Christians Are Changing the Soul of American
Politics, Free Press, 1996.

Ralph Reed, After the Revolution: How the Christian Coalition Is Impacting
America, Word Books, 1996.

Robert S. Robins and Jerrold M. Post, Political Paranoia: The
Psychopolitics of Hatred, Yale University Press, 1997.

Mark J. Rozell and Clyde Wilcox, Second Coming: The New Christian Right in
Virginia Politics, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

Judith Spencer, Satan's High Priest, Pocket, 1997.

Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado, No Mercy: How Conservative Think Tanks
and Foundations Changed America's Social Agenda, Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 1996.

Daniel A. Stout and Judith M. Buddenbaum, eds, Religion and Mass Media:
Audiences and Adaptations, Sage, 1996.

Charles B. Strozier, Apocalypse: On the Psychology of Fundamentalism in
America, reprint edition, Beacon Press, 1995.

Jim Wallis, The Soul of Politics: A Practical and Prophetic Vision for
Change, New Press, 1994.

Justin Watson, The Christian Coalition: Dreams of Restoration, Demands for
Recognition, St Martin's, 1997.

A. N. Wilson, Paul: The Mind of the Apostle, Norton, 1997.