Friday, February 22, 2008

The much coveted helpy-chalk endorsements!

Actually, mostly what I am doing here is liveblogging the process of filling out my mail in ballot for the Ohio primary election. In that spirit I will first note that the instructions explain how you can write in a candidate in the appropriate line, but the ballot itself does not have the line described in the instructions. This has been my experience with every ballot I have ever filled out.

And now the endorsements:


Barak Obama!

When I was imagining writing this post, I pictures giving a detailed explanation of the vote, including links to position papers on the candidate's websites. Instead, I'll just give this little chart

Best on War Issues: Obama
Most Electable: Obama
Best on Health Care: Clinton.

Advantage: Obama.


Dennis J. Kucinich.

Every morning, you hear stories from the national news media about the need to cut back on pork barrel spending and earmarks. Then the local news come on and everyone complains that our local representative hasn't been bringing home enough pork barrel spending and earmarked money. I don't buy this double standard. If pork barrel spending is bad, its bad when it benefits us. I, for one, am glad to have a representative who thinks globally.

Next comes three elections where people are running unopposed (two state supreme court vacancies and one appeals court spot.)


Stuart A. Friedman.

I assume that the congressional districts don't match the judicial districts, so I'm supposed to be able to vote in the 10th congressional district and the 8th judicial district. Why else would this be on my ballot?

This is a nice case where voting by mail leads to better judgment. Were I stuck in a voting booth, I'd say "fuck, I dunno," and vote for the woman in the race (Margaret M. Gardener) But since I am in the comfort of my office I can go online to this unbiased judicial rating site and see that Friedman gets the highest rating from the Cleveland Bar Association, the Cuyahoga County Bar Association, the Cuyahoga Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the Norman S. Minor Bar Association, the Ohio Women's Bar Association, and the Plain Dealer.

What is the Norman S. Minor Bar Association? Apparently it is a group of African American Lawyers. Ok, I think I've done my due diligence here.

Ok, two more unopposed judicial elections. Then they're these:




What the hell am I voting for, here. Why is there one list of male candidates and one list of female candidates?

The first candidate on the MAN list is Jimmy Cotner, whose presence on the internet is limited to his repeated mention in the Newsletter for the North Olmstead Democratic Club as their Sargent at Arms. (The North Olmstead Democratic Club looks like good people.)

The next candidate, Michael Gareau shows as a North Olmstead lawyer. Am I allowed to vote in this one? Well one of the candidates on the women's side is on the city council of Olmstead Falls.

Fuck, I was supposed to be home by now. I'm going to skip this one and try to figure it out tomorrow. I'll just wrap things up by doing the easy elections.

Six more unopposed elections then:


Ann Mannen

Here again I return to the judge rating site and I find two candidates get good reviews from the various bar associations and two get very poor reviews. Of the two who are positively reviewed, one Brendan Sheehan, is supported by the Cleveland Bar, the Plain Dealer and the Call and Post, which appears to be an African American Newspaper. The other candidate is backed by the Women's bar, the African American Bar and the Defense Attorneys. We'll go with her.

More opposed elections, many with the same title as the one I just voted in: Judge of the Court of Common Plees, General division. Then we get another


James W. Satola

One of oudemia's kinfolk appears to be running here, but I'm going with the candidate with more endorsements.


Pat Kelly

The judicial rating site makes everyone out in this election to be real losers. Kelly at least was given an "adequate" rating by some associations. The local democratic party endorsed another candidate with the last name Calabrese (this time spelled Calabrezze) but she received a "not recommended" from every bar association, so I'll pass. Also there is another election for a position with the same title that is not covered by the judicial rating site. I'll investigate that later.


Lillian Greene

I filled this in based on the Judge4yourself ratings, but the democratic party has endorsed her opponent, who also is well qualified. I might have voted wrong here. I'm not going to sweat it.


Kathleen Ann Keough


Gerald McFaul


Patrick O'Mally


Jim Rokakis

the last three are because the flier received said he was endorsed by the democrats

Ok, I still need to figure out the state central committee votes. There are also two tax levy's that I'm pretty sure I favor, but I don't understand the wording of. That's all for now.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

X and Philosophy Books and the Presentation of Philosophy to the Public

A proposal for this summer's AAPT meeting

X and Philosophy Books and the Presentation of Philosophy to the Public

James Bond and Philosophy (Held and South 2006): Ok, I can see that.

Poker and Philosophy (Bronson 2006): This is more dubious.

Harley-Davidson and Philosophy (Rollin 2006): A brand name? Isn’t that something we should be more critical of, rather than simply using as a hook?

Bullshit and Philosophy (Hardcastle and Reisch 2006): Looks like someone is cashing in.
New books with titles of the form “X and Philosophy” where X is some piece of popular culture are coming out faster than anyone can absorb. The formula was initiated in 2000 by Bill Irwin at Open Court Press, which now has a trademark on the series name Popular Culture and Philosophy. In 2006 Irwin moved his operation over to Blackwell, and Open Court continued their series under George Reisch. With two publishers now working the formula, the books are coming faster than ever. In 2007 alone, ten “X and Philosophy” books were released by Blackwell and Open Court Press.

Participants in this session will discuss both the usefulness of these titles in the classroom and their broader significance for the presentation of philosophy to the general public. How often and how successfully are these books being used in introductory level courses? Can you give a book based on a single TV show to the random selection of undergraduates who sign up for Introduction to Philosophy and count on them knowing the show or being interested? Are people running special sections advertised as being dedicated to philosophy and this or that aspect of popular culture? If these books aren’t being used in classrooms, who is buying them? Academics who happen to also be interested in this or that bit of pop culture? Are fans of these various bits of pop culture who have little knowledge of philosophy actually buying these books? More importantly, once these books are read, do they succeed in bringing new people into philosophy? If they do, is philosophy presented the way we want it to be?

One problem is the tone of the books and the level of engagement they actually bring to popular culture. Each of these volumes is designed to be light, friendly, and largely uncritical of the aspect of popular culture they cover. Bill Irwin has said specifically that “Studying popular culture as philosophy, rather than using it for examples and communication would be abuse, at least abuse of philosophy” (Irwin and Gracia 2007, 56). His preferred method for writing essays in these volumes is essentially to take a lecture from an introduction to philosophy course and pepper it with examples from the relevant piece of popular culture. A good example of this style is Jason Kawal’s essay from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy volume “Should we do what Buffy would do?” (Kawal 2003) which is an adroit introduction to virtue theory which happens to constantly use Buffy Summers as an example of a virtuous person.

This approach misses two opportunities, both of which would benefit a reader new to philosophy. First, it refuses to acknowledge when a piece of popular culture succeeds in being philosophical. For instance, Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy has spoken candidly about the impact of existentialist ethics, which he first encountered as an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, on his film and TV work. Even if one doesn’t think that Buffy is great art, it would be a shame to ignore this aspect of the show because you feel that treating popular culture as philosophy is an “abuse of philosophy.” A fan of Buffy will know that some of the content of the show is being ignored, and will rightfully feel condescended to. Irwin’s “mining for examples” approach also misses the opposite opportunity: to criticize a piece of popular culture when it falls short in profound ways. John Lawrence, reviewing various “and philosophy” books for Philosophy Now makes observes a swath of missed chances in the Star Wars and Philosophy (2005) volume
The Phantom Index’ does not mention ‘sex’ or ‘gender’, and the book discusses neither the subordination themes related to Leia and Padme, nor the abundant ripening homoerotic relationships among the men. It overlooks the ethnic stereotypes of the intergalactic Tontos – the Wookies, Ewoks and Gungans who labor selflessly for the identifiably American White Heroes. A resurgent, often Star Wars-themed militarism in the 1980s is not alluded to. I admit that that’s cultural history, but it’s an important dimension for a critical assessment of what the saga stands for. Yet the book has room for two exegeses inspired by Hegel, and one by Heidegger. (2007)
Apparently, the editors of Star Wars and Philosophy chose to avoid offending fans of the movies in order to ensure that they get some information about Hegel with their spoonful of Jedi-flavored sugar. But certainly the ability to take a critical attitude is more central to a philosophical education than knowledge of Hegel. And the best way to teach a critical attitude is to demonstrate it. By failing to critically engage popular culture, X and Philosophy books neglect the core of philosophy for the sake of a few of its trappings.

The uncritical attitude of many of the books in these series leads to some odd topic selections. The light tone makes it impossible to address the biggest forces in popular culture. No one has yet tried Pornography and Philosophy, Evangelical Christianity and Philosophy, or Capitalism and Philosophy, despite the enormous popularity of pornography, evangelism, and capitalism. Indeed, a lot of the books released focus on rather unpopular parts of the culture that happen to attract academics. Two Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy books are coming out this year (Eberl 2008 and Steiff and Tamplin 2008), even though the series didn’t have the ratings to be renewed past its fourth season. On the other hand, no one has yet tried Britney Spears and Philosophy, NASCAR and Philosophy, or World Wrestling Entertainment and Philosophy.

This session will consist mostly of open discussion. I will draw on my experiences writing for an X and Philosophy volume and reading a half dozen of them. I hope to hear from people who have used these books in a classroom setting either in general introductory classes or more specialized courses. More generally, I am interested in hearing people’s ideas about how philosophy should interact with the culture at large. How does this work with your vocation as a teacher? What aspects of philosophy do you want to highlight to the culture at large?


Bronson, E. 2006. Poker and philosophy: pocket rockets and philosopher kings. Vol. 20 of Popular culture and philosophy. La Salle, IL: Open Court.

Decker, K.S. and J.T. Eberl. 2005. Star wars and philosophy: more powerful than you can possibly imagine. Vol. 12 of Popular culture and philosophy. Chicago: Open Court.

Eberl, J.T. 2008. Battlestar Galactica and philosophy: knowledge here begins out there. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.

Hardcastle, G.L. and G.A. Reisch. 2006. Bullshit and philosophy: guaranteed to get perfect results every time. Vol. 24 of Popular culture and philosophy. La Salle, IL: Open Court.

Held, J.M. and J.B. South. 2006. James Bond and philosophy: questions are forever. Vol. 23 of Popular culture and philosophy. Chicago, Ill.: Open Court.

Irwin, W. and J.J.E. Gracia. 2007. Philosophy and the interpretation of pop culture. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Kawal, J. 2003. Should We Do What Buffy Would Do? In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Loathing in Sunnydale. La Salle, IL: Open Court Press.

Lawrence, J.S. 2007. Pop Culture ‘and Philosophy’ Books. Philosophy Now. November/December. 64: 41-43.

Rollin, B.E. 2006. Harley-Davidson and philosophy: full-throttle Aristotle. Vol. 18 of Popular culture and philosophy. Chicago: Open Court.

Steiff, J. and T.D. Tamplin eds. 2008. Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy. La Salle, IL: Open Court.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The It Boy of the North Country Academy for the Excruciatinly Fine Arts

It's been too long since we've had a really good NCAftEFA post, which is a shame, because for a while now one of our new pupils has been producing outstanding work one the border between representation and abstraction. Here's the piece that really announced Joey Hinshaw's arrival in the art world.
Joey's T-rex 3
As you can see, he begins with the same monochromatic canvas approach that attracted his sister when she was starting out, and in fact gave the NCAftEFA its international reputation. But look more closely at what Joey has done. He has applied so much watercolor to the construction paper that it bent and curled as it dried, adding a three dimensionality to the work that you just didn't see in earlier pieces from this genre. Those works could be textured, but they didn't really achieve the spatiality that Joey has produced.

Also note that he came independently to the idea of filling the paper with paint edge to edge, whereas Caroline learned it from her classmate at the NCAftEFA, X. This perhaps accounts for his willingness to move the genre forward, including the daring use of sharpie in the lower center part of the page.

But the most profound aspect of this work is how it is conceived. Caroline's earlier work was aleatoric art and action painting. What Joey is doing is representational. That's right. When the artist was asked about the meaning of his work, he said "It T-rex, rawr."

Could this green bent surface really represent a prehistoric beast? Consider the later work in the series.

Joey's T-rex 1

This picture, too, was described by the artist with the words "It t-rex rawr." Now we can see that the insistence of the color is meant to capture the ferocity of the beast. But all that pales compared to the final work in the t-rex series.

Joey's T-rex 2

Is that a blood splatter? Has the camera panned away from the carnage of the T-rex consuming the triceratops? It is for the imagination of the viewer to decide.