Sunday, October 30, 2005

Pumpkin Insides

Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.


Fire truck! Fire truck! Fire truck!

Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.

The potsdam Halloween parade included fire trucks. Caroline was too scared to go for a ride.

Halloween is not Caroline's Best Holiday.

We went to David and Lisa's Halloween party again this year. A picture of all of us in costume is below, and more on Flickr.

We didn't stay at the party long, though. There were scary guys there. Someone was dressed up like the rabit from Donnie Darko.

After seeing him, Caroline spent a half hour curled up against me, hiding her face.

Caroline: "I don't like that scary guy."

Me: "Its ok, he went over to the dance floor, you can come out now."

C (hopeful, but still not coming out): "I think he went home".

Me: "Well if he did, you can certainly come out."

C: "I think he went to another party, maybe. A party with bigger kids who like to be scared."

She never did pull her face out of my side, and eventually we just went home.

Halloween 2005

Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

the hedonic treadmill

A well known problem with pleasure is that once any given pleasant state is achieved, one quickly grows used to it, and begins to crave the satisfaction of a more outré desire.

In this respect shadenfruede is no different than all of our other fredue. Now that a top administration official has been indicted, and a supreme court nominee has withdrawn her name rather than face further mockery, I want more. More indictments. More resignations. More withdrawals. That woman nominated for the position where she deals with refugee issues, she's supposed to be a twit. I want her to withdraw her candidacy. I want a Rove indictment. A Cheney indictment. Perp walks! I want perp walks! I want to read that Bush’s approval rating among Latinos is 1%. Among Asians, 0%. I want to hear that his approval rating among seniors is minus 5%. I want to hear that they had to invent new forms of math to properly calibrate the contempt felt for this administration among women ages 18 to 35. I want Checkov, Uhura, Troi, Beverly Crusher, Kira Nerys, Seven of Nine, Kes, and that Vulcan woman from the most recent series to all come out as bi-curious. Wait, that’s a different want. I want Bush to admit he made a mistake. I want him to appear ashen faced in public, start to mutter an apology, and then start blubbering.

Sigh. I should just go to bed.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Halloween Pageant

Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.

I haven't felt this excited before a live performance since I don't know when. Maybe some occasion in college where I drove a long distance to see, like, Sonic Youth, or something.

Caroline and her classmates at the Little School got through two songs before the agony of being up on stage when the rest of the family were sitting in the small plastic chairs got to be too much, and she ran down, gave Joseph a big hug, and jumped into my lap.

Like all good performers, the other children knew that the show must go on, so several more songs were performed. Artists often look to each other to determine the acceptable boundaries of their art, though. Thus one of the other children, upon seeing Caroline decamp to her family, decided to decamp to hers.

One of the nice things about Children's Pageants that you don't see much in adult art is do overs. For one of their songs, Mrs. Randi decided they could sing louder, so she had them do it again. The only time I've seen adults do that was a concert by Sebedoh, where Lou decided that the first run through of the song was too slow, so they played it again at a faster tempo. It did sound better that way.

It turns out my camera was almost dead when I got there, so there aren't too many pictures. Click the above photo to get to Flickr where you can find the others.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

While KBR looks the other way, subcontracters employ slave labor

The Chicago Tribune ran a series of articles earlier in the month on where Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root gets all those Asian laborers that run the mess halls and supply chains for our war in Iraq. They have tapped into a long existing pipeline for the trafficking of human beings. Peasants are lured out of largely rural Asian countries like Nepal with promises of nice jobs that don't exist, and then coerced into dangerous and underpaid labor. Previously this pipeline supplied workers for Middle Eastern countries; now it supplies the Iraq war with bodies.

The reporter from the trib story was on Fresh Air today. (The Fresh Air links to the wrong audio file from the page on the KBR story. Here is the correct link.) Like any good reporter, he begins with the story of a few individuals, in this case twelve men from Nepal who were promised jobs in a five star Jordanian hotel, but found themselves in Iraq with no way to get home. KBR and its subcontracter didn't bother to provide them with protection: slave labor is too cheap to be worth it. The twelve men were captured by the insurgent army Ansar al-Islam and executed. The video of the execution made its way back to Nepal, where the young men's mothers could watch it.

KBR employs about 35,000 third party nationals through more than 200 subcontractors. This page at the Trib site focuses on their complicity in the trade in human beings.

Angry yet? US Citizens can contact their senators, representative, and president. It would be nice to influence Halliburton in some way, but, despite being major world power centers, large corporations like Halliburton are not directly accountable to the public for their actions. This is their website. If anyone can find an address to send mail to, let me know.

More on the current oil crises

While Rob the Unapologetic Athiest and Steve are having a little colloquy in the comments below on whether we are "running out" of "resources", the NYT has an article up about Saudi Arabia's maxed out oil production capacity. I'm still not in the mood to talk about long term projections for "resources" in general. Short term projections for oil are scary enough, and don't require us to debate the fit of Hubbert type models or the magic ability of the market to make oil out of not-oil.

The bottom line from the NYT article is that the Saudis have been promising to increase production to meet our increased demand, and even though oil experts doubt their ability to do so, the Bush administration has simply accepted the Saudis at their word. Here's a money quote:
"The long-term capacity was not considered a problem," said Robert W. Jordan, the American ambassador to Riyadh from 2001 to 2003. The Saudis, he added, "never expressed any concern about the need to expand."

"Nor did we, or at least me, engage them on this topic," he said.
Oil optimists are fond of quoting Saudi Sheikh Zaki Yamani, who said "The stone age did not end for lack of stone. The Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil." Ironically, it is the saudis who are now looking around and not seeing any more stones.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Corpus Delicti: Just Desserts

The Local Infinities theatre troop in Chicago is doing a show in the operating theatre of the University of Illinois-Chicago College of Medicine. The play is a dialogue between Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (Larry Underwood) one of the first doctors to perform public dissections and the woman whose cadaver he has disected, Sister Luyt (Meghan Strell). Tulp you may know from the Rembrandt painting "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp", left. Luyt was actually a criminal--whose exact crime seems to be lost to history--whose sentence to be publically executed, dissected, and flayed. The Trib has a review of the play here.

Meghan Strell and her fellow founder of the Local Infinities theatre troop, Charlie Levin are acquaintances of mine. They were both good friends of my good friend/former housemate/former drummer Alex Blatt. Both Alex and Thomas have provided music for their works in the past. It is very exciting to see people I know do such interesting work.

Added: the story was via

how pale and insignificant those crude representations were

I used to read The Onion every week as soon as it came on line at the end of the workday on Tuesday. My interest had been fading until the Bush White House did our beloved satirists the favor of sending them a cease and desist letter regarding their use of the Presidential Seal in their parodies of Bush's weekly radio address. This wonderful bit of free publicity inspired me to go back to The Onion's page, where I saw a article by young Edwin Bauer in their community voices section, entitled "Fire Truck! Fire Truck! Fire Truck!" It begins thusly:
Look, out the window! A fire truck! I've seen drawings of fire trucks in my picture books, of course, but how could I have ever known how pale and insignificant those crude representations were in comparison to the real thing! Fire truck! Oh, great God in heaven, fire truck! This has got to be the most moving of mankind's creations, and perhaps of nature's, as well.
Read the whole thing, and understand your toddler better.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

New York Review of Reviewed Books, issue 2

I want to use this space to note new books that look interesting, but which I only know through book reviews. (I've done this before.) I was tempted to call this the New York Review of Book Reviews, but I don't want to review the review. I just want to review the book second hand.

All that is a long winded introduction to this remark: Hey look, there's a new book in the Blackwell Companion series, this one on genethics. Metapsychology has a review. The review says that it doesn't work well as an introduction or critical overview, but many of the individual articles look exciting.

1. Mary Anne Warren has an essay claiming that "the individual gene has independent moral status." I always knew her theory of moral status was too inclusive. Now I have proof.

2. Bernie Rollin has an essay on the ethics of genetic engineering and cloning animals from an animal rights perspective. Maybe he can answer a question that has been troubling me for a while: will we soon being seeing huge confinement facilities full of genetically identical, cloned farm animals? Some people I've talked to said that this is coming, others say that it will never be profitable enough.

3. George Annas has a piece on monster mythology and genetic engineering. It would be nice to see something on this topic that doesn't simply rehearse the role of the Frankenstein myth in our culture and the image of the monster as a category breaker.

Apocalypse Now

An amusing anecdote from Abigail Zuger the NYT:
"I was crossing Third Avenue yesterday and I was coughing so hard I had to stop and barely made it across," a patient told me last week. "I'm really scared I'm getting the avian flu."

I just looked at him. What could I say? He has smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for the last 50 years. He has coughed and wheezed and gasped his way across Third Avenue now for the last 10 years. His emphysema is not going to get any better, but it might stop getting worse if he were to stop smoking.
Zuger's article is about the way disease fears in the media help us avoid confronting real problems in the here and now. Her thesis has rich analogies in other domains, particularly mine, environmentalism.

Environmentalists are often parodied as doomsayers and chicken littles, constantly predicting an ecological crises that never arises. This image is facilitated by environmentalists like Lester Brown, who really are doomsayers constantly predicting an ecological catastrophe that never arises. Brown's failed predictions about everything from population to the price of copper make it hard to talk about global warming and peak oil. Every time I try to talk to my colleague Steve Horwitz about resource issues he reminds me that the predicted copper shortages never came.

So here’s the deal: I’m never making dire predictions about the future again, because the present sucks enough. Let’s start with peak oil. I officially no longer care whether oil production has peaked or will peak, because excessive demand for oil—greed for oil—has already launched two Gulf wars. Here’s a charming anecdote from the current Gulf war, included in a recent Human Rights Watch report excerpted in the NYRB, describing the treatment of “Persons Under Control” (PUCs).
Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent. In a way it was sport. The cooks were all US soldiers. One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini Louisville Slugger that was a metal bat. He was the fucking cook. He shouldn't be in with no PUCs
You don't need to predict the end of civilization to argue for an end to our oil dependence. All you have to do is show that we don't quit oil, things will stay the same. A similar argument can be made, no doubt, using the current hurricane season and global climate change.

Three things

Job Plans

Every tuesday at this time, I listen to Danielle "sluts in utopia" Egan lecture in the classroom next to my office on qualitative methods in sociology, reinforcing my desire to find a million dollars under a rock, enroll as a SLU student, and take all her courses. This, even though she is actually a continental philosopher.

Against text fetishism

Two sentence fragments have bothered me recently. First: "Buffy as a incoherent text." Buffy is not a text. It is a television show. The script may be a text, but the script is not the show. Second: "The discourse of environmental concern." Environmentalism is not a discourse, it is a practice. The language is only a part of this practice.

Caroline Loves her Grandma

My in laws were in town over the weekend. They came in late thursday night. Friday morning, when Caroline came downstairs, she saw them lying on the futon. She ran up to me, clutched my knees, looked up, and whispered urgently "Grandma's here!" She then crawled into bed with Grandma, and they talked quietly for almost an hour.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Nigeria's Version of Gangsta Rap: Cheerful, with Colorful Ethnic Costumes

Oyinbo man i go chop your dollar
I go eat your money

The new hit song in central Africa, by Nkem Owoh (aka Osuofia), is about the fun loving criminals who run the 419 scams that appear in your email inbox all the time ("Dear Esteemed Sir, I write to offer you a business proposition.") Here's the video. This page has lyrics and discussion.

White men, I will eat your dollars
I will take your money and disappear.

419 is just a game
We are the masters
You are the losers

Like a lot of Nigerian music, the song is incredibly cheerful. I’m always interested in the emotional tone of the music from different criminal undergrounds. American gangsta rap is so angry. We haven’t had joyful music from a criminal underground since the original Dixieland jazz in the early 1900s. Honestly, the joyful music makes a better case that the unjust life is the good life than the angry music does.

I don’t approve of real life 419 criminals. They ruin lives and foul the internet with spam. But like most people, I’m a sucker for the icons of the outlaw and the trickster. As music “I go chop your dollar” is great fun. Reminds me of Bankrobber by The Clash:

Daddy was a bankrobber
Who never hurt nobody
He just loved to live that way
And he loved to steal your money

K.E.V.I.N meet M.I.L.F

Zadie Smith's novel White Teeth featured a terrorist organization called "The Knights of the Eternal and Victorious Islamic Nation (KEVIN)" whose members acknowledged that they had "an acronym problem."

Who needs art when you have life? There is a Philippine Islamic separatist group called the "Moro Islamic Liberation Front" (M.I.L.F). This means that individuals can be described in newspaper reports this way "Mohamed Iqbal, chief M.I.L.F. peace talks negotiator" I know how he feels: I frequently find myself in peace talks with MILFs.

On the Current Global Religious War, Part 8: Winning Hearts and Minds!

The Australian television show Dateline has broken the story of an American psychological warfare team that desecrated the bodies of two Taliban pointing their bodies towards Mecca and then setting them on fire. The PsyOps team then broadcast this message over loudspeakers to a village believed to be harboring Taliban.
Attention, Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned. You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be.
Yes, it is sacrilege to burn a corpse according to Islam. Turning the bodies to face Mecca…well you guess. Is this how PsyOps wins hearts and minds, and lets the local population know that we are not Crusaders bent on destroying Islam, but are working for their liberation? This looks to me like more evidence that our soldiers consider all of Islam to be the enemy, and their goal is to terrify them into capitulation.

Last year Americans in Afghanistan were rumored to have desecrated the Koran, which started riots. The Pentagon maintained that this defilement either never occurred, or was caused by ignorance of Islam, or was the work of a few rogue agents. The first two excuses just won’t fly now. (Experts in psychological warfare had no idea that facing bodies to Mecca, setting them on fire, and bragging about it over loudspeakers was sacrilege?) They might try the “few rogue agents” route, but how many rogue agents do we need before that excuse fails?

Further evidence for the religious character of the war: over at they are defending the PsyOps action on the grounds that making fun of the enemy is a part of warfare: "I imagine that it was a Bad Thing to make fun of Hitler during World War II, also." To make this claim, Redstate has to ignore the fact that religious desecration has occurred. The simplest explanation for why they make this mistake is simply that they regard Islam as the enemy.

Jeanne at Body and Soul points out another war crime our troops are casually committing: collective punishment. Here’s one of our soldiers interrogating a civilian for information about Taliban:
What my commander wants to do with all the forces in this whole area is round up everyone in this town since no-one is helping us and nobody is turning over the people in this village who actually are part of the attack.
There's another nail in the coffin of the myth of the liberal press here too. The supposedly liberal NYT has picked up the story, but only after the Pentagon decides to investigate. Moreover they lead with the Pentagon's viewpoint, rather than the Australian story. This is probably also an illustration of the way media dependence on government sources leads to bias. The Times did not have a reporter in Afghanistan that uncovered the story. They did not even seem to be watching Australian TV. The New York Times only got the news when the government responded to it. I have an idea: instead of launching a bold new initiative to kiss ass to religious fundamentalists, the Times should cut its Washington bureau in half, get their fucking reporters out of the cocktail party circuit, and onto the world’s battlefields.

Does anyone know where one can see the original footage of the Dateline show? Their website only has the transcript.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

jo(e)'s page: The Boy Next Door

Read Jo(e)'s latest

I totally understand

Fortunately, I don't have to blog Hariet Miers' bizarre responses to the Senate confirmation questionaire, because Pam at Pandagon has done it here.

I should say, though, that I totally understand having your license to practice law revoked twice in separate jurisdictions because you forgot to pay your bar dues. Every year I don't remember to pay my APA dues until they lock me out of the webpage that holds the precious Jobs for Philosophers. It would really suck if they revoked my license to philosophize.

Something's Gotta Give

I have too many commitments. I'm going to have to renege on something. This means that someone is going to get what they want late, and may possibly be blown off altogether. To further the cause of personal blogging (= turning the private into the public for no good reason, often to the dismay of the public) and possibility to solicit advice from you, the internet, I am going to decide what to renege on right here in this space.

I'm arranging my commitments in a tentative hierarchy, and then drawing two lines. Commitments below the first line will be scaled back. Deadlines will be missed; work will be skimpier. Commitments below the second line will be broken altogether. Most of these are actually commitments I made to myself, which will make ditching them easier.

Duties to family: obviously these can’t be broken. I’ve been trying to shuffle them around a bit more, trading time spent watching Caroline for time spent cleaning, but basically nothing can change here.

Duties to students: These are often the first to be abandoned, but they shouldn’t be. In any case, I am about as behind on these commitments as I can afford to be. I’ve got a stack of old grading for my Reasoning class that I should get to right away. Now even.

Getting the GMO piece ready for publication: by November 4 I’m supposed to have my article “The Other Value in the GMO Debate” ready for publication. I thought this would only involve updating the URLs and proofreading. But now that I look at it, I see all sorts of other problems. Technical terms need to be explained for a lay audience. The paper is now three years old so political facts may have changed. I hemmed and hawed in the piece about the lack of postcommercialization monitoring of transgenics, but for all I know some of that is in place now.

________ The line of diminished expectations________

Pleasure Example 1: My neighbor Vicky Coffee told me just got a boxed set of Bruce Lee DVDs, and I thought “my, it would be fun to get together with Vicky to watch kung fu movies.” Not gonna happen. Example 2: The other night Caroline and I were watching Dan Zanes’ live DVD. Suddenly Caroline pointed to the screen and said, “Daddy, you have one of those.” “One of what?” “Those,” she said, right there,” and she ran over to the other side of the room where I kept an old mic stand and a Shure 57. I thought, “I want to make music again.” Not gonna happen.

the job market: I had wanted to revamp my dossier, particularly my teaching statement, this year. Looks like a lot of people are just going to get last year’s dossier, particularly people with Nov. 1 deadlines.

The abortion ethics paper Christ, when am I going to get to this?

The Buffy paper has a Nov. 1 deadline for abstracts. I’ll probably just send them the abstract for the previously accepted talk that I didn’t give, with a note saying that I plan to take Stevenson into account. I won’t actually be able to read Stevenson, though.
AAPT Has a Jan 16 deadline for abstracts. I was going to work on this during this term, as a part of revamping my teaching statement. Not going to happen. It will be Christmas break before I really work on this.

Orgasm paperWith all the blogging about the evolution of the orgasm, you’d think I’d have a talk on the subject. Don’t know when I’ll actually write it, though.

________Line of I’m completely blowing you off___________

Helping the department shape its visionLaura asked us temps for input into the department’s new mission statement. I thought about doing this as a part of my teaching statement work. Not going to happen.

blogging I'd like to blog this and this. Not gonna happen.

It just occurred to me

The White House must have an IT department. Therefore there must be some guy that, like, Dick Cheney has to call when he has a computer problem. Can you picture the conversation:

Dick: "Steve, I can't log on to get my email. It's saying I need to create an account, but I already have an account. I'm the Vice President for fuck's sake."

Steve: (Exasperated sigh)"Did you try rebooting?"

I don't know why I find this image so funny. I guess I just like the idea that the most powerful men in the country suffer the same indignities I do.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Kidstart Meeting Tomorrow Night

For local readers, from Tonkidowns, via email:

The staff of the local pre-k program will be presenting the case for continued funding for the program to the Board of Education tomorrow night, 7:00 PM in the High School library. Supporters of early education are encouraged to attend to show the board that the program is important to the good citizens of Canton, NY.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Further Buffy Thoughts

MT, in the comments for the Buffy post below, seems to be questioning whether Buffy deserves academic scrutiny. Isn't it all commercially driven? Can it really succeed in expressing deeper themes? He says
I suppose it's just the academic idiom, but the way you talk about "the function of" this or that makes me think you're operating unconstrained by the reality that these productions are collaboratively designed and produced foremostly to keep millions of pairs of eyes on the screen
Actually, that was exactly the kind of explanation I was giving for a lot of what Joss and Mutant Enemy have done. Part of keeping eyes glued is keeping the fanbase happy. A show like Buffy is pursuing a different marketing strategy than Full House. They aren't interested in large numbers of casual middle of the road viewers. They are interested in a small number of very dedicated fans. In a 500 channel world a small dedicated fan base can be a steady source of income. MT goes on to say
So while I don't doubt that Joss has all kinds of sophisticated messages or themes or values and/or jokes he wants to convey, these things are incidental to keeping large numbers of middle-class American eyes glued to the tube. I think it's rare brilliance that accomplishes more...even in a novel.
Is it a rare brilliance that accomplishes more than please an audience? Sure, but my standards are actually lower. Basically, if something pleases an audience, that is success enough for me. That also means it is worth studying. Why does this art please this audience? What is it about the art; what is it about the audience? This question becomes especially compelling when you personally are part of the audience.

There are two standard reasons given for studying a work of popular culture, one sociological, one aesthetic. Neither are fully satisfying. The sociological reason is offered by people who want to know what such and such television show says about america today. Typically, the assumption is that it will say something bad. The aesthetic reason is offered by those who think that this particular bit of popular culture is actually brilliant, and will be seen as classic literature by future generations. Of course now it is seen as lowbrow entertainment, but even Shakespeare was lowbrow in his day.

My attraction to Buffy is closer to the aesthetic camp, because I am a genuine Buffy fan, but I still find this unsatisfying. Part of the reason is that I don't feel obligated to prove that Buffy is brilliant to a non-fan. I'm not that confident in my own judgment, and I don't think it matters that much. It is enough that a large number of people think that Buffy is brilliant, and that I am one of them. Academic Buffy studies is a way that this group of people can come to know itself better, and self knowledge is one of the deepest goals there is.

We live in popular culture; we might as well understand it.

Nearly Half of Americans Cite 'Too Little' Environment Regulation

Via Dale Jamieson on the ISEE listserve comes this article in the WSJ on a new Harris poll where Nearly Half of Americans Cite 'Too Little' Environment Regulation

Friday, October 14, 2005

Harriet Miers's Blog!!!

Via Wally in the B.Ph.D comments, comes Harriet Miers's Blog!!! The bestest blog by the bestest supreme court nominee by the bestest president ever!!! I honored just to be in this blog's presence!!! This is even better than Terri Shiavo's blog!!!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

My Buffy Talk

Since I have a backlog of grading and jobs to apply for, I've decided to spend the day working on a paper to submit to the second Slayage conference on all things Joss Whedon. I had a paper accepted to the first conference, but was unable to go, because it conflicted my China trip. Abstracts for the current conference are due Oct 31.

So my plan is to simply update the old paper to take into account the final seasons of Buffy and Angel, which shouldn't be too hard, and the more recent Buffy scholarship, which may be more work. This is the old paper. Essentially, I attempt to define what it means for a TV show to have a moral worldview, and argue that Buffy and Angel do not succeed in developing a coherent moral worldview. My focus is in particular on the attempts of these shows to deal with moral complexity, the need to thread a path between dogmatism and moral nihilism.

At the time I wrote the paper, there were only two edited volumes of Buffy scholarship with material relevant to my topic, South, ed. (2003) and Wilcox and Lavery eds. (2002). A fair chunk of my original talk was criticizing some of the simplistic readings of Buffy’s morality presented there. Stroud sees the Buffyverse as a Kantian, Miller sees it as embodying an ethic of care, and King sees a fascist ethic. All of this is way too easy.

There seems to be much better stuff out there now. I am very impressed by this book, (Stevenson 2004) which I just started reading. It is aimed at a mixed scholarly and popular audience. The author says one of his reasons for writing it was the realization that most of his students had no idea how to understand the moral content of shows they watch every day. Stevenson also writes as a Christian who is rather appalled at the habit his co-religionists have of gauging moral content by simply counting instances of sex, violence, and profanity.

The Stevenson book also clues me in to a feature of Season 7 clearly relevant to my thesis. One of my claims is that Buffy amounts to a morally incoherent artwork, and that this is almost inevitable given the exigencies of television writing. Well it turns out that a film critic wrote a book about the moral incoherence of particularly violent seventies films. That critic’s name was Robin Wood, the name given in Season 7 to the particularly violent vampire hunter son of 1970s slayer Nikki Wood.

So I want to use recent Buffy scholarship and the last few seasons of Buffy and Angel in the revised talk, and I want to use them to do two things. First, I need better foils for my thesis than the ones offered in South and Wilcox and Lavery. Stevenson is already beginning to provide that. Second, I want to sharpen my analysis of what it means for a TV show to have a moral worldview. Stevenson is also good here. I also imagine that the analytic aesthetic literature would be helpful here. Routledge, I think, has a big encyclopedia of aesthetics that I might use.

My basic question to you, the internet, is "What new aspects of the Buffyverse or Buffy scholarship do I need to bring into the new version of the talk?"

South, James B. (ed.). 2003. Buffy the vampire slayer and philosophy: fear and trembling in Sunnydale, Popular culture and philosophy; v. 4. Chicago: Open Court. 0812695305

Stevenson, Gregory. 2004. Televised morality: the case of Buffy the Vampire slayer. Lanham, MD: Hamilton Books. 0761828338.

Wilcox, Rhonda, and David Lavery. (eds.). 2002. Fighting the forces: what's at stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield. 0742516806

Some additional career possibilities

Really, I don't want to either stay in academe or raise chickens. Here are some of the things I would really like to do:

1. Write an opera based on Night of the Living Dead. Then direct a low budget film version of said opera.

2. Learn to draw. Spend the rest of my life drawing erotic Buffy fan fiction comics.

3. Learn to play the banjo. Teach Caroline the dobro and Joseph the fiddle. Form a blue grass band that specializes in Bad Religion covers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Rob needs a job

Jobs for Philosophers is out. There are, apparantly, 340 jobs for philosophers available in North America right now. So here are some career options for me.

1. Stay in Canton, quit academe, and raise chickens.

2. Find a million dollars under a rock, enroll in SLU as a student, and take whatever course Danielle is offering that involves reading about "Sluts in utopia and the future of radical sex."

3. Apply for one of these jobs:
  • THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO, London, Ontario, ethics

  • UNIVERSITY OF NORTH FLORIDA, Jacksonville, FL., either race and gender theory or environmental ethics

  • CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, Sacramento, applied and professional ethics

  • BROOKLYN COLLEGE CUNY, Brooklyn, NY., ethics, bioethics

  • SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE, Bronxville, NY. philosophy of science

  • UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY (SUNY), Albany, NY., applied ethics

  • UNIVERSITY OF VERMONT, Burlington, VT., open

  • WHEATON COLLEGE, Norton, MA. Ethical Theory and Applied Ethics

  • GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY, Fairfax, VA. AOS: Bioethics, ethics.

  • YORK COLLEGE OF PENNSYLVANIA, York, PA, Ethical theory and applied ethics

  • ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY, Tempe, AZ., Philosophy of biology/epistemology

  • CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, FRESNO, Fresno, CA., Phil sci, with an interest in developing a critical thinking program

  • CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, LONG BEACH, Long Beach, CA. A Ethics, Applied Ethics, and Political Philosophy.

  • PACIFIC UNIVERSITY, Forest Grove, OR., Ethical theory and applied ethics

  • SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY, Santa Clara, CA., Philosophy of Science, with some expertise in Technology and normative issues in Technology desirable.

  • CARLETON UNIVERSITY, Ottawa, ONTARIO, Canada. moral, social, and political philosophy. Those whose work engages issues in public policy are especially encouraged to apply.

Needs meme.

Via PZ Myers. Go to google and type "[your first name] needs" to find out what you need. This is what I need.

Rob needs your support and donations
Rob needs to first go public
Rob needs to get serious about living the Bible
Rob needs Net Clued Lawyer, urgently.
Rob Needs a Job.
Rob needs help badly!
Rob needs to realize that although conditions look similar, the laws are not.
Rob needs a refresher as to the meaning of perjury.
Of course Rob needs it, but whether he can take it is, obviously, quite another story.

Some people are having more fun than me.

I just went to the shared printer. The document I had printed was titled, "Sign In Sheet."

Danielle Egan's document was sitting in the tray. It was titled "Sluts in utopia and the future of radical sex."

Monday, October 10, 2005

Most recent cool music experience

Caroline isn't normally allowed to watch TV, but her cousin gave her this DVD, by the world's greatest children's musician, as an early birthday present. This evening she wanted me to read to her. But Molly and I both agreed. We had to watch Dan Zanes & Friends. The DVD features nine songs from a concert at the Knitting Factory and six music videos from places like Seasame Street. This is a song from the Knitting Factory gig. This is from Seasame Street. Sadly, the coolest part of the DVD, the songs with Father Goose (AKA Rankin Don) are not on Zanes' website. So you will have to buy the DVD.

I just want to emphasize: this is so cool, it will make you insist that your children watch TV, rather than read a book.

Also, I have a terrible confession to make. I think I have a crush on Barbara Brousal, who plays guitar and does a lot of the singing in Dan Zanes' band.

Environmental Doomsaying

I know what you are going to tell me: Oh, you environmentalists are such doomsayers. Everything is always getting worse, society is always about to collapse.

Still, today is giving me a very bad premonition. It is really cold here today—-like, "why didn’t you bring your parka?" cold. And I have this sinking feeling that it is going to keep getting colder around here, for the next several months. Oh, there might be a reprieve here and there, but, for the most part, Canton, New York is going to get colder and colder, and won’t start getting warm again until April. During that time, people won’t go outside as much, you won’t be able to bike to school most days, heating your home will cost a lot of money, and things are just generally going to suck.

I know, environmental doomsaying. But I’m saying it. Winter is coming. Ugh.

What were they afraid of, part 3

Via email, Reason Online has another report showing how false reports of violence in New Orleans were. This story features an interview with a National Guardsman who was at the superdome and was in charge of checking stories and dispelling the false rumors that were spreading among the evacuees.

The question now is, "What does this imply about our hurricane response?" It certainly means that the impulse to send in storm troopers with shoot to kill orders was wrongly placed. It also means that the suburban communities had no reason to seal off evacuation paths.

This doesn't let FEMA off the hook, though. There were no murders at the superdome. There may have even been a lot fewer deaths from poor medical conditions than initially reported. Still, that is no excuse to leave tens of thousands of people in a squalid refugee camp because you can't get your act together.

Republicans forget a basic principle of corrupt politics

From the NYT, this report on the Miers nomination
Mr. Dobson, the influential founder of the conservative evangelical group Focus on the Family, has said he is supporting Ms. Miers's nomination in part because of something he has been told but cannot divulge.
And this reply from the Senate:
In response to a later question, Mr. Specter added, "If there are back-room assurances and if there are back-room deals and if there is something which bears upon a precondition as to how a nominee is going to vote, I think that's a matter that ought to be known by the Judiciary Committee and the American people."
It's a pretty basic idea, really: Back room deals are supposed to occur in back rooms, so people don't find out about them. You do not, after making a back room deal, get on the radio and all but announce that you have made a back room deal.

Sheesh, its like tyhe Republicans have gotten so flustered they don't even remember the basics of their own job.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Can't stop the signal.

Just saw Serenity. Damn. Have you seen it yet? It will make you say, "Damn." Here are some reasons.

Joss knows how to tell a story. In particular, he knows that he has to play all your emotions, not just a few, and that means making you like characters, and then letting very very cruel things happen to them. There is a lot of Season Six in this movie.

Joss knows language. For the T.V. series Firefly, he tried something daring. The characters were to speak a pidgin of folksy cowboy talk and Mandarin. At first, his actors sounded a little hesitant with it. By the time the series ended, it was as smooth as Malcom McDowell speaking Nadsat. In the movie, it is still smooth.

Joss has themes. He's thinking about how to thread the needle between bullshit dogmatism and moral nihilism (still). Our hero, who fought for the good guys in the war and lost, has retreated into the selfishness of only caring for family. He is caught between an assassin named The Operative, who believes so strongly that he will commit any atrocity for a cause, and the crazed zombies called the Reavers, who will commit any atrocity for no reason at all. Other heroes have been disillusioned cynics called back to the battle (Rick in casablanca), but it has been a long time since we've the story of such a hero presented this well.

My only complaint is the one I picked up from Stephanie Z at Salon. Joss should have had a full T.V. season to tell this story. Then the subplots, like the romances between Kaylee and Simon and between Mal and Inara would have gotten their due. Joss belongs on T.V. I don't want a second Serentity movie. The whole thing should go back to T.V. Joss is a third generation T.V. writer. He's a fucking Homeric rhapsode for our age. He needs the long format.

Cross posting from Majikthise.

When I am feeling exceptionally pleased with myself, I repeat what I said elsewhere here. This is what I said on Majikthise about journalistic objectivity:

I've been thinking a lot recently about objectivity in three fields: science, jurisprudence, and journalism. I've been tempted for a long time simply to rank them. Science has the best model of objectivity, followed by the law, then journalism.

But really what distinguishes the three is only the amount of time they have. Scientific results are always tentative, because we have the rest of the history of the human race to correct them. This also means that we can develop elaborate systems of peer review and cross checking. The law has some time pressure: people are entitled to a speedy trial. There are fewer appeals. Journalists have to have the story in the next day. There are really no checks whatsoever, so the journalist has to make due with the trappings of objectivity, like never using the first person pronoun.

So what do scientists do with their time that lets them be more objective? At least part of what they do is develop a loyalty not just to ethical values but to epistemic values. They feel duty bound to be skeptics, and question others beliefs; to be epistemically humble, and question their own beliefs; to be curious; and to be diligent. It turns out that the cure for the bias brought by values is simply to have other values.

Yelling at your work

Do you ever feel like yelling at your work? Not your co-workers, the work itself.

My office is filled with piles of essays and books I'm supposed to read and papers I'm supposed to grade. On my desk I have five separate to do lists, written on index cards, scrap paper and post it notes. My computer gives me pop up reminders several times a day of things I'm supposed to be doing. My email in box is full of people I need to get back to. I'm prioritizing work, not by its importance, but by how annoying the device is that I set to remind myself to do the task.

I want to scream at all of these things. I want to chew out my computer, upbraid my books, and give the ungraded homeworks a good talking to. I want to take every xeroxed journal article in my office and shove it back into the copying machine where it came from. I want to send random objects from my office via campus mail to random places. Notebooks to the registrar. Calls for papers to the Dean. The office plants can go to biology. I want to create a void here. I want to announce that I have accomplished the floor, and thus can check it off my to do list, an act which would involve peeling off all of the tiles and sending them to the dining hall. I want to eat all of the books in the office. I want to inhale the phone and decompile the software. I want to make it all go away.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Clayton Cubitt is a professional photographer (fashion and pornography, mostly) whose mother and teenage brother have been left homeless by Katrina. The hurricane demolished the trailer home, dubbed Eden, that Cubitt had purchased for his mom with his money as a fancy New York photographer. He has set up a blog to cover what has happened to his family and his hometown. There is good stuff there, like this conversation with his mom about her life as a go go dancer sixties in the Big Easy.

Class discussion question

Over at my course blog, I've posted another discussion question: should we reintroduce the elephant to North America? Should we create great big wildlife preserves for great big elephants, and other surviving relatives of the cool megafauna that used to live on this continent?

Think of it this way, the Bush administration is still pushing for returning to the Moon and going on to Mars. If we are going to drop money and resources on a quasi scientific venture that is really motivated by the "aww man, that would be cool" factor, why not have some elephants to show for it instead?

Yes, but is it pornography?

A problem for those of you into conceptual clarification and sex.

1. I have been receiving a lot of spam recently that advertises movie clips of women kicking men in the balls. Generally the scenario involves a woman being assulted or sexually harassed on the street and replying with violence. The "money shot" is her kicking a guy in the balls.

2. I encountered a genre of pornography called "pedal pushers", which depicts women in short skirts and high heels revving the engines of exotic cars. The camera, it seems, stays on their feet.

So the question: are these pornographic? Assume for a second that they are what the advertisements say they are, (I have no reason to doubt this, although I have not actually watched any of them) and that there is an audience that watches them, indeed, compulsively watches them. They are advertised like pornography and packaged with other things that most people would agree are pornography. But their relationship to sex is hidden under many, many layers of repression and fetishism. WTF?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Educational Cutbacks in Our Tiny Hamlet.

Kidstart, the pre-K program in our school district is in danger of being cut. (Warning via Tonki Downs, who, when she first introduced herself to me, said her full name quickly as if it were all one word: Tonkidowns.) There will be a school board meeting October 20 where teachers will advocate for the program.

I don't know much about the issue--in particular what budget pressures are driving the proposed cuts. Googling around I see that our district is wealthier than the county, but is still listed by the census as having a 16% poverty index. The Adopt a Classroom program lists the local elementary school as Title 1, meaning it has a "high concentration of students from low-income households."

Based on the huge importance of early public education in general, this looks like a fight worth gettting into. Do any of my local readers know more about the issue?