Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Joey and I have made a new discovery

Again we were watching videos on Youtube. The goal of this game is to find something that holds both his interest and mine. The Ramones do an admirable job of this, and they lead us to a new show on NickJr, *Yo Gabba Gabba*
As you can see, the show follows the formula established by Pee Wee's Playhouse of appealing to kids with bright colors and standard kids themes and appealing to adults by featuring hip music and being skull-crushingly weird

Note: I originally linked to this version of the intro, which is obviously youtube user contributed extreme weirdness, but is also cool.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Eastern Philosophy Timeline

Eastern Philosophy Timeline
Originally uploaded by rob helpychalk.

I am convinced that good visuals vastly improve the experience for some students. I am convinced that they take a lot of time and I am not very good at them.

This timeline provides a map for everything we will be covering in my eastern philosophy course. (3000 years of the history of two major civilizations in 10 weeks.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Generational Politics in Academe

For the record, I did not make this remark about the "smokers" at the eastern division APA, and what they are like for job candidates:
During the heydey of the post World War II great academic job market, these smokers were quite different. For one thing, people actually smoked. For another thing, the Baby Boomers actually smoked pot at the smoker. Unless you are a Generation X job candidate who has been stuck at a table with a drunk Baby Boomer during one of these things, and he (it's always a he!) is telling you how great it was "back in the day" when everybody had over ten interviews and there was a "dance circle" of pot smokers in the middle of the room. . . unless you've had this experience added to the penury and hopelessness of the average job candidate, you maybe don't even know the meaning of the word "rage." [To give you a basis of comparison, I found such experiences vastly more rage inducing than the time four drunk Ohio farm kids on a public street called me a "long haired faggot" and then used me as a punching bag. This may just be because I could understand most of what the farm kids were saying, unlike with the atrocious A.P.A.-smoker-room acoustics added to the slurred speech of Doctor Peace Bear and his equally drunk and self-satisfied Boomer colleague Professor Hippypants.]

224007814_4def8bd557 I speculate that this is one of the main reasons Generation X academics are often so unrelentingly hostile (when talking with one another) about Baby Boomer academics. Note, I don't endorse this. But any fellow Gen Xer not suffering from the kind of Stockholm Syndrome induced by relentlessly acting like a "promising young man," (i.e. a Boomer's idea of a young person instead of an actual young person) knows what I'm talking about. Baby Boomer academics had a much easier time getting jobs and tenure. Somehow on their watch we not only got Reagan, the two Bushes, and abandonment of cool plans to colonize space, but also a university system where now less than half the positions are tenure or tenure-track. And Gen Xers should be forgiven for concluding that they don't care. You go to a faculty senate meeting and all the talk is about: (1) diversity (any comment by me on how this actually works in most universities would take us too far afield), (2) fighting the administration's efforts to make it easier to sack dead-wood Baby Boomers with tenure, or (3) instituting some awful management school thing like "strategic planning" that only results in academics (usually the junior ones) writing useless reports to justify some Baby Boomer vice provost's six figure salary.
I didn't say this. Any ill consequences for bad mouthing the tenured generation should not be directed at me. I am merely further publicizing these remarks for educational purposes.

Friday, September 21, 2007

On freeing your mind

All day I've been singing "emancipate yourself from mental slavery/none but ourselves can free our minds," and while singing I've reached the conclusion that, while the line works well as an exhortation to people to do what they can to free their minds, it is strictly speaking, not even close to being true.

Start by remembering what a free mind is. A mind is free if it is not bound by an inherited set of ideas, but is able to consider the widest range of possibilities. Most importantly, a free mind is not trapped by beliefs that justify existing unjust power structures, and can conceive of better alternatives. A free mind has imagination and skepticism.

Honestly, you can't just will yourself to have imagination and skepticism. The main source of imagination and skepticism isn't in you at all. It is in the way you were raised. And while it is possible to develop imagination and skepticism later in life, this too will be largely a product of your experience. The main internal cause for increased imagination and skepticism would be a kind of second order disposition. If imagination and skepticism are themselves dispositions to think a certain way, we can also talk about a disposition to cultivate those dispositions. But once you are in a position to have such a disposition, you pretty much have all you need to be imaginative and skeptical.

Once you have the will to free your mind, your mind is already free.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Redemption Song

Joey and I watch videos on youtube after everyone else is asleep. We explored all the versions of "Shrek song" together.

Just now we've been looking at videos of Redemption Song. I'm fond of this one, which seems to be by some random guy. I had been looking forward to hearing the Joe Strummer/Johnny Cash version for some time, but when I heard this user-made slideshow using it, I was let down. Cash seemed to me to have aged much better than Strummer. Hearing Joey S doing the song on his own made me revise my opinion. Really the voices were just mismatched. The Strummer video also features some first rate testifying at the beginning, and is just a nice video (is that Jim Jarmush?)

Then there is the man himself:
(He looks like he is doing all the strumming with his thumbnail, and just moving his thumb, barely flexing the wrist at all. And he can hit double time that way. Is that possible?)

And check out this version:

Well, the important thing is to have no fear for atomic energy. None of them can stop the times.

Upsetting demodulation against dictatorship

Falling shiite during security!

The monochrome librarian cries under the imbalance.

A danger patches a bread. A violate war advocates the local socket. Why does Caroline rage beside the enclosed risk? Caroline achieves Joey near an additional ribbon. Caroline rolls with Joey.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

More Leonard Cohen Blogging

The problem isn't that Cohen shouldn't be allowed to *sing* his own songs. He has a great baritone croon. The problem is that he shouldn't be allowed any input into how they are orchestrated. The version I linked to does feature addition verses, which hit harder on the sacred/profane/prayer/sex theme than the verses in the popular covers.

The Jeff Buckley version is one of the most popular. It has some fucking incredible guitar work, which makes for a better arrangement than the piano arpeggios that seem to be standards for covers Hallelujah. This is actually my first experience listening to Buckley, despite reading about him constantly.

Buckley has a verse not in Shrek: "Remember when I moved in you/and the holy ghost was moving too/ and with every breath we drew was hallelujah" I swear Cohen has a way of making his own horndogginess into something transcendent. I wish my horndogginess were so transcendent.

The standard arpeggio covers are here (Rufus Wainwright) and here (Alison Crowe, which I only clicked on because I thought it said Alison Krause)

Its a close contest between Buckley and Cale.

An alternative solution to the polygamists' dilemma

Estrogen mimicking chemicals! They are the most likely culprit behind the massive gender imbalance in babies born in Inuit communities across the arctic. According to the Guardian article. "In the communities of Greenland and eastern Russia monitored so far, the ratio was found to be two girls to one boy. In one village in Greenland only girls have been born." Women in these villages were found to have extremely high levels of estrogen mimicking chemicals in their blood, and since it is known that enough of these chemicals can alter the sex of a fetus, the case against estrogen mimickers is pretty strong. The Inuit are victims of a combination of wind and water patterns and bioaccumulation. A lot of estrogen mimickers are carried to the arctic by air and water, and accumulate as they go up the food chain, meaning that the largely meat eating Inuit are subjected to huge doses.

The article does not mention it, but I infer that a substantial number of the girls being born are chromosomally male. They have the manly Y chromosome, but its action in development has been completely undone by the estrogen mimickers. I wonder if this means there will be some cases of girls growing penises at puberty.


John Cale Singing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah

Since the kids watch Shrek on a daily basis, I've been hearing this song a lot. I didn't realize it was a Leonard Cohen tune. Amazing stuff. The nice thing about being old and square is that music you like turns up in mainstream places, like hearing Marvin Gaye in the supermarket.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The problem with one of the sides in the GMO debate

Once upon a time, I researched genetic technology, and found myself very frustrated with the way nearly everyone discussed the issue. This, neatly captures what is wrong with the pro-biotech side. The blog post is a critique of an issue of an academic journal dedicated to a perennial complaint of the genetic engineers: "Why can't the public see the light of reason, and recognize that we are acting in the best interest." I was particularly struck by this paragraph:
Time and again, the authors in Biotechnology Journal divide the world into a drama with just two actors: Science and The Public. (One even makes an even more derisory distinction, suggesting that the debate is between "modernists" who believe in progress, and postmodernists who don't even believe in truth.) But there's a third player: Capital.
Of course, for every person who sees biotech policy (and technology policy in general) as a conflict between modernists and antimodernists, there is someone who views it as a conflict between evil capital and good nature. But the Salon piece does a good job with one reductionism.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Doing Polygamy Badly

Reading this article on the sad fate of boys cast out from the big Fundamentalist Mormon enclave in Colorado and Utah to maintain the gender ratio at a level that allows all the men to have at least three wives, I realized that these guys simply don't know how to run a polygamous society. For most of human history, the species has been both polygamous and patriarchal, but has never had a problem with surplus boys. Most societies avoid this problem by limiting real polygamy to the very high status males and having women marry young and men wait until they are older. If I were leading a crazed religious sect and were motivated primarily by the desire to possess and dominate large numbers of women, I would be quick to impose both of those policies on my flock, just to insure that the operation is sustainable. I think this guy Warren Jeffs simply doesn't know how to be an effective cult leader.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Dipping into the backlog of articles on the environment in China

The New York Times on air pollution in China, from August 26. Here are some interesting clips
President Hu Jintao's most ambitious attempt to change the culture of fast-growth collapsed this year. The project, known as ''Green G.D.P.,'' was an effort to create an environmental yardstick for evaluating the performance of every official in China. It recalculated gross domestic product, or G.D.P., to reflect the cost of pollution.

But the early results were so sobering -- in some provinces the pollution-adjusted growth rates were reduced almost to zero -- that the project was banished to China's ivory tower this spring and stripped of official influence.


This spring, a World Bank study done with SEPA, the national environmental agency, concluded that outdoor air pollution was already causing 350,000 to 400,000 premature deaths a year. Indoor pollution contributed to the deaths of an additional 300,000 people, while 60,000 died from diarrhea, bladder and stomach cancer and other diseases that can be caused by water-borne pollution.