Sunday, February 27, 2005

pseudo blog rolling

I haven't bothered to install BlogRolling software, so I can't say that I really blogroll I just hand update the links at the right.

In any case, you should check out Lowland seed. Especially see his comic strip Conversations with My Mother. It was his link that inspired me to make the first tractatus comic, which actually still needs to be fixed.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The true inheritors of punk and the true independent cinema

"With stolen guitars, or used guitars
So the tape would understand
Without even the slightest hope
Of a thousand sales." (strummer/jones)

A group of German fantasy geeks have made a movie based on the Terry Prachett novel Lords and Ladies. (Link via /.) This is the English-language trailer in all its cheap special effects glory. Until now, I had never heardof Prachett, and was always more of a sci-fi nerd than a fantasy nerd. Still, I salute these geekazoids, and declare them, and others like them, to be the unlikely heirs of all that was true and noble and good about punk rock.

link for rest of text

Get this straight: these people made a full length movie for 300 euros. They did it because they wanted to. They are now selling a DVD, on their own. That is so punk rock.

Perhaps because I grew up the the Washington DC scene, I have always belonged to the camp that said that the important thing about punk was that it created an alternative network of bands, labels and clubs motivated solely by love of the music and more importantly the community the music created. Punk said that it was better to be a producer than a consumer of art, even if that meant that you didn't live up to the standards of virtuosity promelgated by the professionals.

Of course there are homemade movies all over the internet. The /. commentary to the Prachett movie mentions House of Cosbies hosted by channel 101, a story of a man who lives with a dozen clones of Bill Cosby which he made in his basement. Good movies seem to go away quickly, though. Cleis linked to an amazing retelling of the tale of Inanna using S&M Barbie dolls but the link seems to be dead. Once upon a time I saw a homemade episode of the original star trek. I can't find it on google anymore, and the CD I saved a copy to is scratched. (Does anyone know where this might be? It featured a guy in andorian make up, and once was linked to by /.)

added these are the geekaziods I was thinking of.

These days I see punk in the oddest of places, especially geekdom. Turns out that the xeroxed fanzines that we thought were punk inventions were really developed by sci-fi samizdat fan fiction. Who knew?

Of course the problem with so called "independent cinema" is that it never succeeded in creating seperate distribution channels from mainstream cinema. Perhaps with you, the internet, the independents will win yet.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Lauren Rainey fight continues

Here'sthe latest update from the Mobile-area news team that has been covering the story.

jo(e)'s page

jo(e)'s page

She has a post up now about x-country skiing at night with her child and nephew. I think she is the best writer in the little blog circle I travel in. I'm pretty sure she writes for a living, and if she only revealed her secret identity, we could find whole books by her.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

quick blogging on anomynity

There has been some chat on the faculty listserv here at SLU about whether the anonymous bloggers who have been attacking SLU faculty and administrators (and are now being sued by the university) are acting decently by hiding their names.

I, as I have said previously, have no opinion on local politics. But I do want to remind you, the internet, of the value of anonymous speech and the need to protect anonymity.

First of all, we should remember that whistle blowing is an important check on institutional power, and would not be possible without protections on anonymity. We should all be thankful that Woodward and Bernstein protected deep throat, that Dan Shor protected his sources for information on CIA human rights violations, and that Seymore Hersh is protecting his Abu Ghraib sources.

What, you say that leaks to the press are different than blogs? The bloggers who blow whistles are only cutting out the middle man. And we now know that bloggers can uncover important information, such as the fact that the White House planted a shill in the press corps to pitch softball questions at press conferences, and more entertainingly, that the shill was not just a media whore, but an honest to god prostitute.

More broadly, anonymous is necessary in a pluralist society for the same reason that privacy in general is necessary. In a pluralistic society, there are going to be actions and lifestyles which are not illegal but which are frowned on by the majority. This is simply a consequence of people living together who have different conceptions of the good life. If people are to pursue their unusual conceptions of the good life (have sex in clown make up, say) they need a private space to do it in. Similarly, if people are going to be able to talk about ideas that are protected by the freedom of thought, but still frowned on by most of the community, they need to be able to speak anonymously. Indeed, the motivation for privacy and the motivation for anonymous speech intersect in the right of people to publish anonymously about unusual aspects of their private lives, say an open marriage.

I do not know if TBOC has done anything wrong, buy anonymity is not among their crimes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

no comment

A visitor asks

How do you feel about the Universities decision to stop requiring the SAT or ACT to get in?

Because I am not real faculty and have no long term job security, I have made it a policy not to have opinions on a number of local issues, including

1. The weakening of the use of standardized tests in admissions

2. The gutting of all privacy policies regarding university computers.

3. The decision to go to a grade scale with .25 incriments.

I am strongly tempted to pontificate on all these issues, but since I have no long term commitment from the university, thinking about them would be a waste of effort for me.

One of the reasons employers in all businesses constantly strive to reduce job security precisely to force decisions like the one I have made. The less the employee feels secure in their job, the less likely they are to bother to push for changes in the way the jobsite is run. The motivation isn't just fear of being fired (which I am well past) but the simple fact that there is no point in developing worthwhile arguments and plans of action if you are going to be on the other side of the country in a year.

Not that I think that SLU in particular is intentionally pursing a policy of hiring temps to disenfranchise the profesoriate. Rather, this is one of the factors motivating the industry-wide move to use only temporary faculty.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Well that sucked

Low turn out, and the same objections that I heard when I presented earlier versions of this matieral. Aestheticians say I don't know that aesthetics literature well enough (note to self, read Shiller). Environmentalists say I'm attacking a straw man. The argument clearly hasn't improved enough, which isn't surprising, since I've been working on so many different things. (Note to self: focus develop a specialty someday)

Well, I know which areas still need work, but I can't focus on them now, because I have to deal with the Lloyd visit, my symbolic logic class, and the fact that the baby just has been sick for two days, and I've made Molly take care of all of it.

Postive Aesthetic Qualities

For the talk I'm giving in 3 hours, I need to use three visual examples. I figure the easiest way to be sure I can get to the links from the auditorium is to post them here. Also, providing three examples of things that are visually appealing might be of general interest. Here goes:

Human physical beauty

Natural Environmental Beauty

Artistic Beauty

And with these kinds of positive aesthetic qualities come organizations to promote them.

A Lauren Ambrose Fan Page

the sierra club

The Art Institute of Chicago

ok, since I have these links up, I'll provide a discussion question for you, the internet.

Should president Bush declare Lauren Ambrose a national monument, the way that Clinto declared 21 wilderness areas to be national monuments?

One of the things I will argue in 3 hours is that these three kinds of aesthetic value should be roughly comperable in their ability to override moral concerns. For intance, many people (not me) say that it was ok for Gauguin to abandon his family in order to paint, because the paintings he produced are so beautiful (or have some other set of positive aesthetic qualities). If we assume, however, that the main justification for environmental preservation is aesthetics, then we do not treat these three situations equally. In fact, we call on people to make huge sacrifices for natural beauty, sacrifices that we would never consider making for human physical beauty, and make only occasionally for artistic beauty. From this I conclude that aesthetics isn't the primary justification for environmetalism, even though it plays a *huge* role in the rhetoric of the environmental movement.

Ok, now I have the visual aids for the talk. All I need to do is write the talk.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

wage peace

My wife's co-religionists have put togeter a moving 2 minute anti-war movie. You can see it here. Click on "wage peace movie". It made me teary sitting in the office.

Monday, February 14, 2005

So what's with the Tractatus jpgs?

The real deal is that I have a number of looming deadlines dealing. Moreover, all of the projects deal with completely different topics, and it is impossible to shift my brain quickly from one field to the next. On Wednesday I'm giving a presentation to the SLU faculty on my current work in the aestehtic foundations of environmental ethics. Next week Lisa Lloyd is coming to campus. I'm teaching symbolic logic using a new textbook (Barwise and Etchemendy) and a new course design, and things aren't working smoothly.

So what do I do when I am being pulled multiple directions: become completely obsessed with the upper level propositions of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. I mean really, why not? They're so soothing in their clarity.

6.5: "If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered."

7: "Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent."

Prop 2

Click on link to see the full strip

I also fixed the last version of propistion 2, which I typed in wrong

Friday, February 11, 2005

If we can only get people to dislike trees...

Someone at the Cato institute has taken time out of their busy day to complain that trees fall down and knock out power lines!

I was surfing the Cato Institute's website (looking for bad environmental arguments to target in a talk I'm giving next week) and found this article, which claims that we have too many power outages during big storms because no one is willing to cut down trees.

The power companies can't come in and saw down trees on your property that stand 60 feet from the residential power line. If they had the authority and the will to do so, there would hardly be any shade left in Falls Church. Imagine the hue and cry from our suburban culture, which worships trees as ardently as Egyptians once venerated cats. (At least cats are -- sometimes -- animated.) Obviously our love for trees will continue unabated (and like the Egyptians' love for cats, unrequited), so the solution to our current problem lies in removing the power line. As in, bury it.
But is the Cato institute really interested in preventing suburban power loss? The well being of the contents of your fridge is not on their official platform, but privatizing federal lands is. Admittedly, there is no direct call for logging or opening up federal lands in the article on trees falling on power lines. But why else promote tree chopping at every turn?

Updated to include link to error message generator: Atom.smasher

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Evolution of the Human Female Orgasm

(New expandable posts via No Fancy Name)
(Now with links and citations!)

So I just finished reading Lisa Lloyd's new book The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution. It's a facinating case study in the way bias, particularly androcentric bias, can ruin a scientific investigation. It’s not out officially yet, but I want to blog about it, both to encourage you, the internet, to buy it when it does come out, and because I want to sort out my thoughts.

Mostly the thoughts I want to sort out revolve around my continuing belief that the human female orgasm is an adaptation. It’s not like the male nipple, which is just there as a byproduct of female nipples. Moreover, I think the human female orgasm was selected for because it facilitated social relations in one or more ways, including preventing conflicts and aiding reconciliation after conflicts, regulating tension, solidifying same sex and different sex alliances, and expressing social status. These are the functions that sexual pleasure seems in general to serve in everyone’s favorite super-sexy-love-primate, the bonobo (see Huhmann and Fruth 2000), and the bonobo strikes me as the right super-sexy-love-primate on which to model human evolution.


So this is the deal. Lloyd surveys all of the available evolutionary accounts of the human female orgasm, 20 in all. (She misses the one in my tiny little head, which on the one hand is understandable, since I've never told anyone about it, but on the other hand is kinda odd, because it seems to be in a lot of other people's tiny little heads that I've talked to, so you'd think it was actually written up somewhere, especially since everyone is all into bonobos these days.)

So where was I, oh yes, Lloyd surveys all of the available evolutionary accounts and finds all sorts of gross mistakes in reasoning and handling of data in all but one of them. She then argues that these mistakes come from two biases, one purely methodological and one with serious political overtones. On purely methodological side, she identifies adaptationism, the persistent belief that any important trait must be somehow adaptive. This bias is most in evidence in the bizarre fealty people feel to failed adaptive accounts, even when far more natural nonadaptive accounts are available. On the more political side, she identifies the problem as coming from androcentrism, specifically, the assumption that female sexuality is like male sexuality. This comes out, for instance, in models that assume females become sleepy after orgasm, as males do.

All this is clearly right, and her case is well made. The problem is that in making the case, Lloyd herself makes some androcentric assumptions. A big one is her almost Clintonesque definition of sex. An important point in almost all of her arguments is that women orgasm more readily in masturbation than in sex, a fact which she refers to as the orgasm/intercourse discrepancy. The root of this discrepincy, according to Lloyd, is that in masturbation, the clitoris is stimulated directly, where intercourse--defined as vaginal penetration--only stimulates the clitoris indirectly.

The orgasm/intercourse discrepancy is what allows her to dismiss all the evolutionary models that revolve around social bonding. All of the social bonding models Lloyd finds in the literature are actually pair-bond models--they assume that if orgasm helped social bonding, it must have helped lifetime monogamous pairings. All of these models are ultimately decended from the ur-nonsense on human evolution from Desmond Morris. According to Lloyd, the root problem with all these models is the orgasm/intercourse discrepancy. If women orgasm more easily solo, how could orgasm have helped the pair bond?

Now, I'm not a fan of the Desmond Morris models either, but Lloyd's objection to them is flawed. The orgasm/intercourse discrepancy only exists if you assume that sex is vaginal penetration. Now I know this definition of sex is popular among ex-presidents and Christian teens who wish to maintain that they are virgins, but it never made much sense to me. I mean, the word “sex” is right there in the name “oral sex.” Once you count oral sex as sex, the orgasm/intercourse discrepancy disappears. Really, the orgasm/intercourse discrepancy is a discrepancy between clitoral and vaginal stimulation. But clitoral stimulation has no special tie to masturbation, and vaginal stimulation has no special tie to intercourse.

The real problem with the Morris pair bond models is the "pair" part of social bonding. There's no reason to assume that our ancestors used our odd mating system. Moreover, we already know that sexual pleasure in general is adaptive in Bonobos, who are flagrantly nonmonogamous. So why isn't there a model out there which tells the story of the evolution of the human female orgasm based on an analogy to the currant adaptive of sexual pleasure in general in bonobos? Shouldn't Frans de Waal be on this?


Hohmann, G, and B. Fruth. 2000. Use and function fo genital contacts among female bonobos. Animal Behavior 60:107-120.