Monthly Archives: October 2008

Showmanship

Get a load of this guy:

This dapper young chap was one of the many forms of entertainment on offer at the coronation of George IV on January 29th, 1820. I wanted to post this so that I could express admiration for the inventiveness of this fellow. I would probably go so far as to surmise that the wheel that the squirrel is driving has outward facing pins that are arranged so as to strike the bells in a certain order, not unlike most inexpensive modern music boxes. Although the concept of having a studded cylinder strike bells was not unprecedented at the time (the idea originated in the 14th century; bells were replaced by combs in 1796), most music boxes were driven by wound-up springs rather than small animals. In a world where the foremost inventors are preoccupied by trying to combine phones, computers and mp3 players, it seems like the true blue, grassroots creativity displayed by our young showman here seems lost. Stymied by the anti-affirmative action lobby, RIAA lawsuits, street entertainment permits and PETA, similar inventors today would be ridiculed into unemployment.

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OH CRAP I ALMOST FORGOT

I JUST REALIZED TODAY IS INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY. WIKIPEDIA SEZ CAPS LOCK USED TO BE SO THAT TYPERS DIDNT HAF TO HOLD DOWN THE SHIDFT KEY TO DO TITLES AND STUFF. NOW THAT ALL THE FORMATTING CAN BE DONE IN WROD, NOBODY LIKES CAPS LOCK ANY MOR CUZ IT GETS PRESSED BY ACCIDENT AND MESSES UP ALL YOUR TYPING. THERE ARE EVEN CAMPAIGNS AGAINST CAPS LOCK (YEAH I KNOW TEH SITE IS DOWN PRBABLY BECAUSE THE , AND SOME KEYBORADS ARE BEING MADE WITHOUT THE CAPS LOCK KEY. HERE‘S SOME INFO ABOUT HOW TO DISABLE THE CAPS LOCK KEY. CAPS LOCK DAY HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE 2003 AND IS A DAY TO CELEBRATE THE USELSESSNESS OF CAPS LOCK BY YELLING AND USING UNORTHODOX TOUTUBE COMMENTS-GRADE SYNTAX AND SPELLING.. CAN EVERYONE HEAR ME IN THE BACK?? MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR NEXT YEAR CUZ ITS GONNA BE A DOOZY

McCain <3 Powell

According to Brad DeLong, John McCain admires Colin Powell more than any other person in the world. He thinks he is the most honest, credible, respected, honorable man in America. This is the same Colin Powell who helped cover up the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, helped keep Watergate under wraps, served as Caspar Weinberger’s senior military assistant during the IranContra weapons-for-hostages scheme, pushed George Bush to violate international law by invading Panama, and famously presented false evidence of WMDs to the UN Secutiry Council in 2003. And even though McCain has valorized Powell for many years, Powell still came out a few days ago as a supporter of Barack Obama. In the words of DeLong, “When the people you say you admire the most–people like John Lewis and Colin Powell–say that your campaign is a sleazy disgrace, it is time to hang it up and drop out.”

And the winner id…

Sigmund Freud has a following in the humanities and social sciences that I haven’t been able to figure out. Thousands of journal pages have been devoted to carefully interpreting and reconstructing and transliterating Freud’s writing in efforts to elucidate everything from Shakespeare’s plays to how transsexuals come into being as subjects. Freud has come under attack by a lot of academics since he died in the early part of the twentieth century, for being sexist, for being intellectually lazy, or for being downright wrong. Frederick Crews, an English Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley, came down on Freud in an article entitled “Freudian Suspicion Versus Suspicion of Freud” in 1995:

Neither in Freud’s case histories nor anywhere else do we find evidence of behavioral manifestations that point unambiguously to the need for such mythic entities [as id, ego and superego]. Their usefulness is not empirical but rhetorical. Each posited subset of “the unconscious” permits another strand of contrary motivation to be added to the already tangled explanatory skein, leaving us, if we are sufficiently gullible, so awestruck by the psychoanalyst interpreter’s diagnostic acumen that we think we are witnessing elegant and validated feats of deduction instead of being told a self-serving detective story in which the very mystery itself – which of the selves checkmated which others to generate the symptom or dream or error? – is an artifact of question-begging maneuvers.

Remember that “question-begging” is using the conclusion as one of the premises, in order to create an argument that is necessarily true. While arguments like Crews’s definitely give me pause, my own personal problem with Freud comes not from a critique of his arguments nor from a critique of his intellectual legacy; it comes from his giving MS Word reason to overlook the typo “id” when I mean to type “is.”

MMMMMGH!!

This is how I feel about painting.

Except replace “gouache” with “any kind of paint.” (This if from Ryan Pequin’s LJ. Click on the cartoon for more – he has a wonderfully natural, easy-looking sketching style that somehow comes through with ton of personality.)

Layton Baitin’

I was watching a Jack Layton press conference yesterday on CPAC, the one where he “raised the spectre of the depression” by invoking R.B. Bennett, the conservative PM who governed during the worst of the Great Depression from 1930 to 1935. “Mr. Harper’s response to the crisis in the banking system is to say that everything is fine, nothing needs to change, and there are no problems,” Layton said; “R.B. Bennett couldn’t have said it better himself in 1930.” It was interesting to watch how the reporters asking questions at the conference were trying very hard to bait Layton into turning this statement into a tasty sound bite for the evening news. After he made his invocation, he was asked questions three times that rephrased his invocation in a way that made it sound scandalous, but needed only a couple seconds of airtime to cover. “So are you saying there’s going to be a recession, or a depression?” one of them asked. “Are you saying that if Harper gets elected there’s going to be a depression?” “Is this a scare tactic to raise the spectre of a depression?”

Ignoring for a moment the ability of anyone to say whether or not there is going to be a depression, let alone poli-sci-major Jack Layton, it is interesting to contrast Layton’s point with the news bite that the reporters were trying to extract from it. Layton’s point was reasonable – he was claiming that Bennett in 1930 was rallying around the same stay-the-course mentality that Harper is today, which expresses a fairly bad case of denial. He wasn’t asserting that Bennett caused the Great Depression—how could he back that up?—or that there’s going to be a depression—how could he know that? The meat of the point was that Bennett, like Harper, denied that there was a problem, which is a stance that precludes finding solutions.

About five minutes later, I was watching the evening news, and there was the story about Jack Layton “raising the spectre of the Depression.” Apparently, after failing to bait Layton into producing the soundbite they wanted, they jumped on the soundbite produced by the third reporter instead, and used that to constitute their story. Incidentally, they included the bit where Layton denies exaggerating Canada’s economic position—he wasn’t saying anything about Canada’s economic position, after all, but was merely reiterating his party’s line that Harper is a failure at everything.

Republican Party Death Spiral Watch

The New Yorker and Esquire officially endorse Obama. With McCain’s poll numbers quickly sliding, and blogs the country over reporting on McCain’s half-truths, lies, and inconsistencies, it looks like the Republicans might get what’s coming. In the words of Brad DeLong, it’s “long past time to shut the Republican party down for good.” Sorry to drift into political territory, but this makes me happy.