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City Lights Bookstore posted events
7 hours ago
Gary Carden posted a video

2012 Award Winner for Literature -- Gary Neil Carden

A literature and drama teacher turned storyteller, Gary Neil Carden is an award winning playwright whose tales are informed by mountain life in North Carolin...
10 hours ago
Gary Carden updated their profile
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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Stories of Asheville's homeless

History of Asheville’s homeless: humanity on trialby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Jim Parton and Kirk Faulkner, two homeless men at A-Hope, where Jim is getting help finding housing and Kirk is making job connections.  Photo, 2017, by Rob Neufeld.“I admire my daddy more than any other human on…See More
Tuesday
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Writers at Home at Malaprops at Malaprops

March 19, 2017 from 3pm to 5pm
A.K. Benninghofen, Lockie Hunter and Beth Keefauver will offer a free reading at the next installment of the Writers at Home series, presented by UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program (GSWP), at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 19, at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood Street in Asheville. This monthly series of free readings is hosted by GSWP director and novelist Tommy Hays.See More
Sunday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Saturday
Susan Weinberg posted an event

Reading by Poet Bianca Spriggs at Three Top Room, Plemmons Student Union, App State University

March 30, 2017 from 7:30pm to 8:45pm
A reading by poet, multi-genre artist, and core member of the Affrilachian Poets Bianca Spriggs in the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series at Appalachian State. Spriggs will also present a craft talk from 12:30-1:45 in the Price Lake Room of the Plemmons Student Union. Free admission.For more info, see the press release http://www.news.appstate.edu/2017/03/06/bianca-spriggs/Parking info is at parking.appstate.edu.…See More
Friday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Mar 14
Toby Hill posted a blog post

Hester

HESTER      Growing up in Asheville,  N.C. in the 50’s and 60’s seemed, at the time, to be filled with a rhythm of adventure and strange encounters sprinkled with an assortment of particularly interesting and somewhat odd characters. One of those persons who fascinated me as a child was my father’s friend “Hester. “       My dad was about as straight an arrow as anyone could find. He seemed to a preadolescent, somewhat indolent son, frankly boring. Looking back from a perspective of 70 years, I…See More
Mar 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

African-American musicians in Asheville

African-American musicians flourished in Asheville neighborhoodsby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: The Outcasts, the state’s Battle of the Bands winner in 1979, included: (kneeling l to r) Edward Stout, saxophonist; Darriel Jones, drummer; (seated) Patricia McAfee, vocalist; (standing l to r) Marvin Seabrooks, trombonist; Mike…See More
Mar 11
Tipper posted a blog post

Blind Man's Bluff

According to the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, the game Blind Man's Bluff is as old as the 16th Century. It was a game I never liked playing as a kid. I was always afraid someone would get hurt-namely me! Its one of those games that makes grown-ups yell things like "Somebodys going to…See More
Mar 9
Mary-Chris Griffin shared Rob Neufeld's discussion on Facebook
Mar 6
Bob Plott replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Hunters and Plott hounds
"Thanks for sharing this Rob--and the book plug too. I have never seen this photo before. I have several others from the 1942 article, but this was a new one. The man on the truck looking down is WWII hero Little George Plott--who I profiled in my…"
Mar 6
Tipper posted a video

I'll Be All Smiles Tonight

old VHS film from 2002, a little distorted by the video conversion process... This song features a high lead by Pap and a harmony underneath. In the key of D...
Mar 5
Tipper posted blog posts
Mar 5
Jan Schochet shared Frank Thompson's event on Facebook
Mar 4

Ethics book presents 82 tough situations

by Rob Neufeld

 

            I wanted to see the book, “Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Matter,” by Peter Singer, because I think real-life parables are helpful in considering such conundrums.

            I was hoping that the work’s academic origins—Singer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and the publisher is Princeton—would not stiffen good storytelling.

            The verdict?  Singer’s “Ethics” is, for the most part, compelling, nagged by a tolerable amount of over-explaining, so it thankfully fills the need for readable case studies of topics you don’t discuss at cocktail parties.

 

Giving to the poor

 

            Let’s start off with a challenge that involves hope.

            The World Bank, Singer reports, said it would cost $50 billion a year to reduce dire poverty in the world by 50%.  This comprises one-tenth of the population.  The expense equals an average donation of $100 from every adult in the developed world.  If everyone gave 1% of their income after expenses, Singer asserts, extreme poverty could be completely eradicated.

            How does this involve an ethical dilemma?  Singer zings the dinger.

            “We tend to think of charity as something that is ‘morally optional,’” he writes, “good to do, but not wrong to fail to do.”  But why not think, instead, he proposes, that not donating at least 1% is “morally wrong.”

            You can tell, this book is going to be a pain.  Yet, for those seeking teaching or self-examining moments, that’s the appeal.  Bring it on; let’s see if we can test ourselves and discuss things without blowing up.

            Before delving in, let’s work with one more hopeful conundrum.

            The nation of Bhutan has as its goal “gross national happiness,” rather than gross national product, Singer reports.  A commission there interviewed 8,000 Bhutanese to determine what determines happiness, and devised policies.

            Happiness may be a no-brainer, but policies are troublesome.  Asheville people will raise eyebrows at Bhutan’s high visa fees, meant to reduce tourism in favor of happiness.

            Regarding best choices, Singer often tips the balance.  For instance, weighing in on happiness versus profits, he notes that unhappiness is monetarily expensive to society.

 

Cheating

 

            As we ease over to the dark side with Singer, let’s begin with something not terribly ominous: “Is it OK to cheat at football?”

            By football, Singer means soccer.  In 2010, you may remember, the German World Cup goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, faked the referee into thinking that Frank Lampard’s ricochet-off-the-top-bar goal had landed outside the goal line.  That’s “win at all costs” behavior, and “cheating,” Singer states.

            Soccer fans can recall similar coups: Maradona’s handball goal in Brazil’s defeat of England, 1986; Thierry Henry’s handball assist in France’s advance to the World Cup versus Ireland, 2009.

            But, then there’s Robbie Fowler, a Liverpool striker who, in a game against Arsenal, told a referee that a foul called against the player defending him was not correct.  The ref said that it was, and to just take the penalty kick; and Fowler complied by kicking the ball softly to the keeper.

              Singer says that a professional sports context makes the moral choice more significant because players are role models with millions of viewers.  Neuer could have promoted good character, Singer asserts.  Who’d have called him a stooge if he’d acted honestly and yielded the goal?

            Some other Singer themes concern: WikiLeaks (a little out of date now); the refugee crisis (he calls refugee camps a least-bad solution); and the Internet (he touts expanding it to every world citizen).

            The issue of renaming commemorations came to his attention when the Black Justice League and others at his university, Princeton, moved to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from a school and a college.

            Wilson had been a Princeton alumnus and president.  As U.S. president, he’d outlawed child labor, restricted the power of banks, injected morality into international affairs with his 14 Points, and—to his discredit—reintroduced racial segregation in the U.S,

            Does commemorating him promote understanding or legitimize hurt?

            Not surprisingly, Singer devotes seven chapters to right-to-life issues.

            “If the fetus really did have the moral status of any other human being,” he posits in one chapter, it would be hard to argue that a woman’s right to choose includes the right to end a life, “except perhaps when the woman’s life is at stake.”  But the anti-abortion fallacy, he continues, “lies in the shift from the scientifically accurate claim that the fetus is a living individual of the species Homo sapiens to the ethical claim that the fetus therefore has the same right to life as any other human being.”

            You can see that Singer engages in logical discussion of views as much as in presentation.  I think the presentations are more effective than the debates, though it’s good to have the talking points spelled out.

            The sanctity-of-life issue becomes excruciatingly difficult to sort out when confronted with the story of what doctors and nurses had to decide at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center in 2005.  Only so many patients could be carried down and up stairs to an airlift when Katrina flooded the city and power went out.  Those left behind were, in a few instances, given large doses of morphine to induce painless deaths.

            It reminds me of a parable I once heard in a radio debate.  Ten people climb into a boat that can only hold nine afloat in the ocean.  No one wants to jump off and no one wants everyone to drown, as would happen if no one left.  What does a right-to-life person do?

            I recommend Singer’s book, though, as a holiday gift, it might split rather than inspire families.  I do think it falls short of unqualified excellence.  Some of its arguments are incomplete; and more is needed than persuasion to have someone say, “Oh, my bad, I’m not going to be evil anymore.”

 

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly book feature for the Sunday Citizen-Times.  He is the author and editor of six books, and the publisher of the website, “The Read on WNC.”   He can be reached at RNeufeld@charter.net and 505-1973.  Follow him @WNC_chronicler.

 

 

           

           

            

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