Sunday, January 29, 2006

in the fingers-in-the-ears "Nah nah nah...not listening, not listening" department

Cartoonish cantankeroid Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) has an iPodThe image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.--and it was only when he realized that proposed anti-copying spyware would disable said toy that he decided he would oppose yet another infringement of civil liberties.

In the "oh, God, I didn't need that image" department: what must be the PLAYLIST on Ted's iPod (shudder)?

ps: Dick Cheney's got one too.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Berube on academic freedom

Fantastic essay by Michael Berube on academic freedom.

Sesame Street addresses the Troubles

The American Ireland fund is coming up with a lot of cash to pay Sesame Street to produce 26 episodes specifically aimed at combating sectarian attitudes in Northern Ireland. This is the same television show which the Republican Congress has tried to kill more than once. Nice to know that the Repugs are working against tolerance there too.

Friday, January 27, 2006

You should never have inhaled, Bill

Clippers at Nuggets. Consistently, Bill Walton says the dumbest, most whiney, and most irritating stuff of any NBA commentator. Why don't they tell him to shut the fuck up about how much better your average 80s NBA player was and how "easy" Bill thinks the new generation have it--the sub-text being that almost nobody nowadays is as good as Bill was then. God what an idiot. How many boards have you crashed recently, you self-aggrandizing, monotonic, dipshit?

Good food/bad food = Good energy/bad energy

At the Uni where I work, prior to the Great Renovation, the Student Union building was reminiscent of a 1960s-era Soviet boarding school: asbestos tile, industrial brick, and linoleum floors, and with food options to match: bad barbecue, worse mini-pizzas, and best-of-a-bad-lot sub sandwiches.

Since the renovation, the fast-food courts for the kids remain, but there is also a bistro-style sandwiches, grill, and soup place, and a "healthy choices"-style salads-and-pitas place. Professor Spouse and I do 90% of lunches in the latter (comes of being old and sedentary). It's interesting to observe the different demographics and demeanors not only of the patrons but also of the folks who work in the various joints. Many are local people, many others are international students working extra jobs--as so many international students do. But uniformly, the workers in the healthy-choice place are often in a better mood, enjoy nicer interactions with the customers, and are kinder to one another.

Working fast-food is hard--I've done it--and it can be both physically and emotionally debilitating. It's interesting (and would be encouraging, if the US government cared more about mandating healthy options in public institutions; see Fast-Food Nation) to note that just being around, much less consuming, healthier food actually makes both patrons and workers happier.

Bloglines - Coulter: What's a little rat poison between judges

Ann Coulter is also going to hell.


"We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," Coulter said. "That's just a joke, for you in the media." She drew more boos when she said the crack cocaine problem "has pretty much gone away."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

they're going to hell...

Simon Crowell, Ryan Seaquist, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson are all going to go to hell. Which, in each of their cases, means that their utter lack of artistic talent OR of human empathy will doom them to an eternity of having actually Work For a Living.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bush's Gestapo

Buried in the new Patriot Act (extended only until mid-Feb despite screams from the right that it be made permanent) is the Bush White House's intent to create a permanent, uniformed, Federal police force empowered to arrest without warrant and imprison without trial.

They called it the Geheime Staatspolizei in the Thousand-Year Reich.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Trump U.

The Donald's home state decides that a repeatedly bankrupted and failed real estate speculator may not be the person to create the model of the "new corporate university." If the CEOs running the country, killing hundreds of thousands, wasting billions, and who are so stupid and short-sighted that they can't even commit crimes competently are any indication, maybe the corporate model is the wrong one?

and in the department of "foxes guarding the henhouse"...

Alberto Gonzales, say hello to Edwin Meese and John Mitchell. Welcome to the Hall of Shame.

The fucking least we could do

Considering that the adolescent whale lost in the Thames probably got lost because our addiction to fossil fuels has continued to pump carbon monoxide into the atmosphere sufficiently to burn a hole in the ozone layer and raise the temperature of various oceans enough that currents which have been running consistently (and thus providing roadmaps for whales) for the last 13,000 years to shift course or disappear altogether and that THIS is probably the reason the poor little bastard got lost swimming upstream against the current through The City, airlifting him out is the fucking least we could do.

Followup from Reuters, 6pm London time: it looks like the poor little guy is going to die. Jesus. How many billions of needless deaths, of all kinds of sentient beings, because of human greed?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Music = Love

Friday night, back from the gig, having just been through the roll-call of worries, frets, late assignments, queries, etc from the various online component of the various courses.

If there were ever any question:

I love my students.

gone to the Land of 1000 Dances

We shedding a tear tonight.

He never, ever, ever knuckled under. Chris Rock: “’Nevah EVAH?!?’ Nevah EVAH!!!’”

The Wicked One is gone, but not forgotten. The baddest of the bad.

Wilson lives.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

when two worlds collide

In the "most gratifying response" department:

Last October, after a successful (e.g., PASSED) tenure vote by faculty colleagues, I was on my regular Friday happy hour gig. Which is usually a time for a lot of people, not just me, to come down from the adrenaline and frustration of the week and transition into the weekend. This particular Friday, Very Many People were buying Very Many Congratulatory Drinks for yours truly.

Well, in such situations, you don't want to give offense by refusing, right? So I was throwing them down-including the shot of poitín the barmaid brought, saying "I don't know why everybody's congratulating you, but I thought I should buy you one too."

I didn't know what it was, but sniffed it, and said "Damn, that smells like the Quare Stuff". Teetotal Teenage Fiddler (who went with Professor Spouse and myself to Ireland two summers back) said, "You're right, it is."

Afterward, Fluter Friend thanked the barmaid and she said, "Why's he celebrating?" FF said "He just got tenure." Barmaid said, "He got TEN YEARS?!? What the hell was he arrested for?!?"

I love it when my worlds collide.

Ben Franklin on the elected individuals who claim to represent us

It’s been hard to write in the wake of the opening semester, the Great Laptop Crash, and Alito, but here’s one nugget:

Franklin, in a roundabout way, did endorse the idea that men are equal on the grounds of their mutual ignorance, vanity, foolish opinions, and pretensions to truth: The fact that human folly and imperfection is universal is the true root of equality.”

From a review of Jerry Weinberger’s new biography.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Further to the idea of a "Second Gilded Age"

See this from the NYT. I wrote about this back in Nov. Guess I was more accurate than I anticipated.

Welcome to Lenin's tomb

In the Stalin/Brezhnev years, the annual May Day march by Lenin's tomb in Moscow was an occasion for marking power shifts: those who appeared to wave to the crowd, standing next to Stalin, were seen as occupying the upswing, while previous attendees no longer participating were seen as on the outs. Associations with these or similar appearances became so predictable that in the great purges the Soviet government would doctor photos to make it seem as if discredited persons had never been present.

original photoretouched photo

Now Bush is doing the same thing vis-a-vis Abramoff. If the Dems are smart, they'll publicize these photos as widely as possible.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

WaPo bitch-slaps Pat Robertson

Washington Post editorial delivers to Pat Robertson the smack-upside-the-head he's so richly deserved. Best line:

"It's sufficient to know, we suppose, that at a time when messages of hope are flowing from around the world to the bedside of Ariel Sharon, Pat Robertson and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad still have each other."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Latest twist in the police state: WH critics wind up on "No Fly" list

Does anybody seriously believe any more that the Bush White House wouldn't do this?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

FALSE: 12 found alive in W VA mine

Jan 9:

Statement below confirmed:

"At one point last year, the Mine Safety and Health Administration fined a coal company a scant $440 for a ''significant and substantial'' violation that ended in the death of a Kentucky man. The firm, International Coal Group Inc., is the same company that owns the Sago Mine in West Virginia, where 12 workers died earlier this week. "

1305, next day after that:

The former director of the National Mine Academy says lack of Bush administration oversight and enforcement led directly to the conditions that killed the twelve. Sean Hannity (gutless Fox-News shill) attempts to deny.

0745, next day:

Oh, Jesus.

Sometimes miracles happen. Prayers for the family of the 13th man, Terry Helms.

But, Goddammit, this shouldn't let International Coal Group off the hook:

The Sago Mine has a long list of safety violations -- and an injury rate in 2004 three times that of other, similar-sized underground mines, according to data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The Sago Mine was cited about 200 times over alleged safety violations in 2005, up from 68 citations the year before, according to the administration.
Some of the trapped miners had said long before the explosion that they were just waiting for a disaster.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Another messianic asshole

Recently surfed past a fragment of The Patriot. I had the misfortune to see it first one July 4th with a bunch of typically-dweeby-and-abstract libertarians who cheered at the tomahawk scenes.God, I would have loved to see them in 18th-century hand-to-hand combat.

Why is it that libertarian theory (smaller government, fewer laws, personal responsibility), which seems so reasonable in the abstract, is perpetually manifested by geeks who think memorizing the Constitution and refusing to pay taxes for infrastructure makes them Minutemen?

Ayn Rand's philosophy is egocentric, self-mythologizing, ill-written gobbledygook.

[updated 2 Mar 06, from NRO online: "
It's okay to think Atlas Shrugged is the greatest book you've ever read until you're 18. Then you should stop."

And I was reminded again that, long before
Passion of the Christ, Gibson was already a messianic asshole.
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Sunday, January 01, 2006

The vanishing craft of memory

Reflecting on the craft of memory after cooking New Years brunch (orange-cornmeal pancakes, home-fries, shirred eggs, mimosae) for a bunch of folks w/out using recipes:

I spend, compared to a lot of folks I know (and the vast majority of students I meet), an awful lot of time committing information to memory: instrumental tunes pre-eminently, but also song texts, Internet information, instructional technology, sources for teaching and research, etc. Yes, I'll consign them to a Windows folder or a blogroll, but I also try to commit them to memory.

Partly this is for professional reasons: the medieval band plays everything from memory, as we believe that both conveys a more apt impression to an audience, and also permits us a degree of musical interaction we couldn't have if we were reading. Part of my contribution to that tends to be the recitation of very long semi-spoken, recited, or chanted pieces: in Latin, old English, or Irish (to date). So I have to memorize not only lengthy and complex accompaniments (and the texts I'm accompanying) but also lengthy and complex texts, some in languages I don't speak.

Similarly, I much prefer in class (and even more in working with graduate students) to be able to pull references, citations, dates, chronologies, titles, performers out of my mental database, as I think it makes the teaching experience much more immediate.

I work on these skills, seeking not only to maintain but also to expand them. Here's why:

Part of the training that we received (the Professor Spouse and my med-band colleagues formally, and myself informally and by osmosis) was in the old techniques of the memory, the kind that Cicero taught in De Oratore Book III (essentially a method for memorizing speeches): how to associate a text with an architectural facade, a statue, or a route traveled. This connected with some other techniques I'd encountered in various folk traditions, especially N European, W African, and E European: alliteration, verbal formulas, musical mnemonics.

But I've also come to believe that in the digital age, the degree to which these arts become superfluous is mostly a bad thing. If we don't have to remember because the machines do it for us (and because the range and complexity of material is so great), then our ability to remember erodes.

That erosion, I think, can lead to loss of certain perceptual capacities, both as speaker and as listener. I think, for example, that the performance of a lengthy spoken-word piece, or a song, or even a concerto, from memory is powerful for an audience partly because that experience--the information pouring out of the performer without any visible technological or textual support--is unfamiliar in the modern world but so archetypal in the history of human culture. We have been listening to singers, storytellers, and oral poets for many centuries longer than we've been reading texts or hyper-linking web-pages. I know from observation and experience that listeners have a visceral response to memorized performance, even if they don't know where that response comes from.

So doing things from memory, and expanding or recapturing the capacity to work with the memory, is to recover perceptual modes which have been part of human culture for millenia, but are currently in remission. It reconnects both performer and listener, not only to those modes of perception, but also to the literal millions of memes that have been carried in oral, folk, and vernacular traditions, through the craft of memory.

That's also howI like to cook.

From the LOC "American Memory" collection

The Old Powder House on Green Street in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Used as a powder store during the American Revolution, the same sorts of stores the British Army was seeking at Lexington and Concord.

I walked past this building 3-4 times a week on my way to-and-from my grocery store job.

It brings up complicated memories. That was a long walk--a good mile and a half, from my house on Sunset Road, uphill and cutting through a neighbor's yard into Waterside Cemetary, across West Shore Drive and past the grade school, to Turner Road and onto Green Street, down Mugford Street past the Me & Thee Coffeehouse to the Old Town Hall, right on Washington Street to the market.

Back the opposite route--and the recollection I have is of sadness and alone-ness. My dad's business had already failed and his drinking accelerated, he'd moved out and my brilliant elder brother was off in Europe--and I was slogging back and forth to this dumb job when I wasn't sitting bored stupid (and exuding resentment and disdain, no doubt) in high school classes.

A lot of memory attaching to that little building.

New Year's Resolutions

Tom Paine


Gary Snyder

Fight for justice.

Mevlana Rumi

Suzuki Roshi

Katagiri Roshi

Pray for peace.

That's all there is.