Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Issac Hayes And His Marvelous Scalp

Pitchfork:

Think about how crazy this is for a moment: Stax loses Otis Redding and the Bar-Kays to a plane crash and the rights to their back catalog (and, later, Sam & Dave) to Atlantic. Without their biggest stars and their best session group, Stax executive Al Bell takes a desperate but necessary gamble: in an attempt to build an entirely new catalog out of scratch, he schedules dozens of all-new albums and singles to be recorded and released en masse over the course of a few months. And out of all of those records, the album that puts the label back on the map is a followup to a chart dud, recorded by a songwriter/producer who wasn't typically known for singing, where three of its four songs run over nine and a half minutes. And this album sells a million copies. If it weren't for the New York Mets, Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul would be the most unlikely comeback story of 1969.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why Michael Jackson's Death Feels Different

Josh Marshall:

I think it's because so much of Michael Jackson's life seemed like make believe. Sometimes farcical. But always like play acting, somehow. So much theatrics. So many costumes. And on various levels the desire -- often frighteningly realized -- to deny or defy his physical self, his age and much more. Even the things that seemed terribly serious, perhaps especially those -- the trials for child molestation which could have landed him in jail for years or decades -- never seemed to stick. Whether he was truly guilty of these accusations or not, it always blew over. All together it conditioned me to think of Jackson as someone whose drama was always just drama -- whether it was the threat of prison or vast debts or bizarre physical tribulations -- all of it would pass or blow over, perhaps not even have been real, leaving him more or less in place, as weird or surreal as ever, but basically unchanged.

In the span of time between when news first broke that Jackson had been rushed to the hospital and when it was reported that he'd died, I actually saw some people speculating on the web that the whole thing might be a stunt to get out of his tour dates or perhaps some health emergency that was not quite as serious as it was being described. And even though these speculations turned out to be tragically, embarrassingly off base, I wasn't sure if they might not turn out to be accurate since it seemed somehow more in character, at least more in keeping with the never ending drama.

In the end death just seemed more out of character for Michael Jackson than for most people. Because through most of his life he and reality seemed at best on parallel but seldom overlapping courses. And death is reality, full stop.



(From Talking Points Memo.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

University of Chicago / Your Mom

Andrea Walker, "Chicago, Where Fun Comes to Die":

The U. of C. is known for serious thinking combined with a sarcastic, self-deprecating sense of humor that always amused me when displayed on undergraduate T-shirts. These described the school as “The level of hell Dante forgot,” “The place where fun comes to die,” and “The University of Chicago: if it was easy it would be…your mom.” Though my new favorite has to be “The University of Chicago: where the only thing that goes down on you is your GPA.”



(From The Book Bench.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Boom and Bust of Asian Cinema in the U.S.

Andrew O'Hehir interviews Grady Hendrix at the New York Asian Film Festival :

"You have acquisitions people picking up movies that aren't very good," he says, "and releasing them to an audience that doesn't know anything about them or have any context in which to enjoy them. They're being written about by a press that knows less and less about more and more Asian films and directors as magazines and newspapers downsize, fire their older writers and pay for shorter articles that are generally just about that week's new releases."



The Kindle and the Jewish Question

Chava Willig Levy,The Kindle and the Jewish Question:

Like my father and the Jewish doctoral student, a Chasidic master living at the turn of the 20th century looked at the world around him with an eye to Jewish life. One day, a disciple approached him and asked, "Rebbe, every time I turn around, I hear about new, modern devices in the world. Tell me, please, are they good or bad for us?"

"What kind of devices?" asked the Rebbe.

"Let me see. There's the telegraph, there's the telephone, and there's the locomotive."

The Rebbe replied, "All of them can be good if we learn the right lessons from them. From the telegraph, we learn to measure our words; if used indiscriminately, we will have to pay dearly. From the telephone, we learn that whatever you say here is heard there. From the locomotive, we learn that every second counts, and if we don’t use each one wisely, we may not reach our destination in life.”

So, what can we learn from the Kindle? Like the telegraph, telephone and locomotive, it offers us lessons - as I see it, at least three of them - for living life meaningfully...

Content: Imagine receiving a Kindle as a gift from your father. Now picture three separate scenarios:

Scenario #1: Several months later, he asks you if you like it. You hesitate to answer. How can you tell him that it's been sitting in its box, unused, devoid of content?

Scenario #2: Several months later, he sees you using it. You see him beaming with delight — until he notices that you're reading some insipid, platitude- or gossip-filled book.

Scenario #3: Several months later, you take him out to dinner for the express purpose of thanking him for his gift and the meaningful, scintillating material to which it has introduced you.

The spiritual parallel is obvious. Granted the gift of life, what do we fill it with? Nothing? Junk? Or purpose?



(Via LISNews.)

A Gesellschaft of Angestellten

The Importance of Order: German Researchers Tackle Untidy Desks, from Der Spiegel Online:

It's the same problem everywhere: Overloaded desks aren't just frustrating for their owners -- they also make employers unhappy. Academic researchers have long been studying the issue and have reached some surprising conclusions. According to a study on the "lean office" by the Stuttgart-based Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation, a good 10 percent of working time is wasted through "superfluous or missing work material" or "constant searching for the right document in chaotic file directories."

The researchers found that wasted time in poorly organized offices could eat up nearly one-third of annual working time. Over a year, that means there are 70 days in which employees are -- as Kurz puts it -- "engaging in pointless activity." It's a statistic which would shock any personnel manager...

According to figures from the German association of office furniture manufacturers BSO, more than 18 million German employees and freelancers -- out of a population of 82 million -- have their own desk at work. In addition, there are a further 2 million desks in private homes. That's a lot of potential clutter.

"The desk is kind of like an exterior version of our brain," says K├╝stenmacher. "Whatever you have in your head, is reflected, almost magically, on your desk."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One Hundred and Forty-One Years of the Typewriter

[I especially like the shout-out to linotype.] June 23, 1868: Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap … Ding! | This Day In Tech | Wired.com:

Christopher Latham Sholes’ machine was not the first typewriter. It wasn’t even the first typewriter to receive a patent. But it was the first typewriter to have actual practical value for the individual, so it became the first machine to be mass-produced.

With the help of two partners, Sholes, a printer-publisher from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, perfected his typewriter in 1867. After receiving his patent, Sholes licensed it to Remington & Sons, the famous gunmaker. The first commercial typewriter, the Remington Model 1, hit the shelves in 1873.

The idea was based on the principle of Gutenberg’s movable-type printing press, arguably the most important invention in the history of mass communications. As with the printing press, ink was applied to paper using pressure. While the typewriter couldn’t make multiple copies of an entire page, it simplified — and democratized — the typesetting process for a single copy with a system of reusable keys that inked the paper by striking a ribbon.

Within a couple of decades of the first Remington typewriter, big-press operations would begin using a modified, more sophisticated keyboard system, known as Linotype, for their typesetting needs. That little tweak helped make the mass production of newspapers possible.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Project Girl Wonder

Henry Jenkins interviews Mary Borsellino about Project Girl Wonder and her book Girl and Boy Wonders: Robin in Cultural Context:

The idea of Stephanie Brown as Robin was so fresh and strange as a direction, but was handled so clumsily and with such obvious institutionalised sexism that it was pretty vile to witness, both as a cultural observer and as a fan who's also a feminist.
Essentially, for those not familiar with the character or with Robin's larger back story: when the second Robin, a boy named Jason, died, Batman created a memorial out of his costume in the Batcave. Stephanie was the fourth Robin, and her costume was different to the three boys who'd had it before her in that she sewed a red skirt for herself. Just a few months after her first issue as Robin was released, Stephanie was tortured to death with a power drill by a villain, and then died with Batman at her bedside.

The sexualised violence alone was pretty vomitous, but what made it so, so much worse for me was that Batman promptly forgot her. DC's Editor in Chief had the gall to respond to questions of how her death would affect future stories by saying that her loss would continue to impact the stories of the heroes -- how sick is that? Not only is the statement clearly untrue, since the comics were chugging along their merry way with no mention of her or her death, but it was also an example of the ingrained sexism of so much of our culture. Stephanie herself was a hero, and had been a hero for more than a decade's worth of comics, but the Editor's statement made it clear that he only thought of male characters as heroes, and the females as catalysts for those stories. It was a very clear example of the Women in Refrigerators trope, which has been a problem with superhero comics for far, far too long.



Lots of good stuff here on Spock on Uhura, and on Carrie Kelly in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns:

Robin crosses all sorts of imposed gender boundaries, both literal and figurative. Carrie Kelley, for example, the young girl who becomes Robin in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, is referred to by a news broadcaster as 'the Boy Wonder'; she looks completely androgynous in-costume, and so is assumed to be a boy. Dick Grayson and Tim Drake both assume female identities to go undercover in numerous stories -- Dick even played Bruce's wife on one occasion back in the forties -- and Stephanie Brown's superhero identity before she became a Robin, the Spoiler, is thought to be a boy even by her own father.


Never understood why Miller made Kelley take on a different identity in The Dark Knight Strikes Again.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Map Is Not The Territory

Tim O'Reilly gives an interview on the relevance of classical education to digital humanism:

The unconscious often knows more than the conscious mind. I believe this is behind what Socrates referred to as his inner "daimon" or guiding spirit. He had developed the skill of listening to that inner spirit. I have tried to develop that same skill. It often means not getting stuck in your fixed ideas, but recognizing when you need more information, and putting yourself into a receptive mode so that you can see the world afresh.

This skill has helped me to reframe big ideas in the computer industry, including creating the first advertising on the world wide web, bringing the group together that gave open source software its name, and framing the idea that "Web 2.0" or the "internet as platform" is really about building systems that harness collective intelligence, and get better the more people use them. Socrates is my constant companions (along with others, from Lao Tzu to Alfred Korzybski to George Simon, who taught me how to listen to my inner daimon.)

I believe that I've consistently been able to spot emerging trends because I don't think with what psychologist called "received knowledge," but in a process that begins with a raw data stream that over time tells me its own story.

I wrote about this idea in my Classics honors thesis at Harvard. The ostensible subject was mysticism vs logic in the work of Plato, but the real subject was how we mistake the nature of thought. As Korzybski pointed out in the 1930s, "the map is not the territory," yet so many of us walk around with our eyes glued to the map, and never notice when the underlying territory doesn't match, or has changed. Socrates was one of my teachers in learning how not to get stuck following someone else's map.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Money, Philosophy, and Tragedy in Ancient Greece

The Greeks and money by Richard Seaford in the TLS:

This new and revolutionary phenomenon of money itself underpinned and stimulated two great inventions in the Greek polis of the sixth century, “philosophy” and tragedy. “Philosophy” (or rather idea of the cosmos as an impersonal system) was first produced in the very first monetized society, early sixth-century Ionia, and – even more specifically – in its commercial centre Miletos. The tendency of pre-modern society to project social power onto cosmology (for example, “king Zeus rules the world”) applies to the new social power of money. And the following description applies equally to money and to much of the cosmology of the early philosophers: universal power resides not in a person but in an impersonal, all-underlying, semi-abstract substance.


Annie Clark Unplugged

I really like her acoustic take on "The Strangers".:

Virginia Woolf's Collected Essays

Claire Harman in the TLS:

It is a surprise to discover, from Stuart Clarke’s excellent notes, how hard Woolf worked on these seemingly effortless pieces for the New York Herald Tribune, the Yale Review or the Nation, and how the “grind & the screw & the torture” of writing criticism neither decreased with time nor put her off. The sheer number of essays in this volume bears witness to the useful balance she found between different kinds of composition: “writing articles is like tying one’s brain up in neat brown paper parcels”, she wrote to Ethel Smyth. “O to fly free in fiction once more! – and then I shall cry, O to tie parcels once more!”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Green and Saffron

George Packer on why Iran's nascent revolution may be different from Burma's stillborn 2007 protests:

For a few days, Burmese citizens with cell-phones (rare and expensive in Burma), modems (agonizingly slow), and cameras were able to send reports, still pictures, and video to the exile media, such as Democratic Voice of Burma in Oslo, which in turn posted them on Web sites that people inside Burma could read. This was how the protesters got the word out to the world and in turn stayed informed of what was happening inside the country (in these situations people on the inside almost always have less information than those outside). It became a prototype of how new media could become a powerful tool in the hands of otherwise defenseless civilians. But far fewer Burmese than Iranians have access to these things, and after a few days the regime narrowed the Internet bandwidth so tightly that almost nothing could get in or out. Iran, a much more technologically developed country, can’t afford to shut down communications across the board. Information technology is too integrated into the life of the country and the government for a complete news blackout. So the demonstrators continue to figure out ways to organize themselves, and the whole world continues to watch.



(From Interesting Times.)

Foucault, Iran, 1978

Michel Foucault, "What Are The Iranians Dreaming Of?"

The situation in Iran can be understood as a great joust under traditional emblems, those of the king and the saint, the armed ruler and the destitute exile, the despot faced with the man who stands up bare-handed and is acclaimed by a people. This image has its own power, but it also speaks to a reality to which millions of dead have just subscribed.

The notion of a rapid liberalization without a rupture in the power structure presupposes that the movement from below is being integrated into the system, or that it is being neutralized. Here, one must first discern where and how far the movement intends to go. However, yesterday in Paris, where he had sought refuge, and in spite of many pressures, Ayatollah Khomeini "ruined it all."

He sent out an appeal to the students, but he was also addressing the Muslim community and the army, asking that they oppose in the name of the Quran and in the name of nationalism these compromises concerning elections, a constitution, and so forth.

Is a long-foreseen split taking place within the opposition to the shah? The "politicians" of the opposition try to be reassuring: "It is good," they say. "Khomeini, by raising the stakes, reinforces us in the face of the shah and the Americans. Anyway, his name is only a rallying cry, for he has no program. Do not forget that, since 1963, political parties have been muzzled. At the moment, we are rallying to Khomeini, but once the dictatorship is abolished, all this mist will dissipate. Authentic politics will take command, and we will soon forget the old preacher." But all the agitation this weekend around the hardly clandestine residence of the ayatollah in the suburbs of Paris, as well as the coming and going of "important" Iranians, all of this contradicted this somewhat hasty optimism. It all proved that people believed in the power of the mysterious current that flowed between an old man who had been exiled for fifteen years and his people, who invoke his name...

It is often said that the definitions of an Islamic government are imprecise. On the contrary, they seemed to me to have a familiar but, I must say, not too reassuring clarity. "These are basic formulas for democracy, whether bourgeois or revolutionary," I said. "Since the eighteenth century now, we have not ceased to repeat them, and you know where they have led." But I immediately received the following reply: "The Quran had enunciated them way before your philosophers, and if the Christian and industrialized West lost their meaning, Islam will know how to preserve their value and their efficacy."

When Iranians speak of Islamic government; when, under the threat of bullets, they transform it into a slogan of the streets; when they reject in its name, perhaps at the risk of a bloodbath, deals arranged by parties and politicians, they have other things on their minds than these formulas from everywhere and nowhere. They also have other things in their hearts. I believe that they are thinking about a reality that is very near to them, since they themselves are its active agents.

It is first and foremost about a movement that aims to give a permanent role in political life to the traditional structures of Islamic society. An Islamic government is what will allow the continuing activity of the thousands of political centers that have been spawned in mosques and religious communities in order to resist the shah's regime. I was given an example. Ten years ago, an earthquake hit Ferdows. The entire city had to be reconstructed, but since the plan that had been selected was not to the satisfaction of most of the peasants and the small artisans, they seceded. Under the guidance of a religious leader, they went on to found their city a little further away. They had collected funds in the entire region. They had collectively chosen places to settle, arranged a water supply, and organized cooperatives. They had called their city Islamiyeh. The earthquake had been an opportunity to use religious structures not only as centers of resistance, but also as sources for political creation. This is what one dreams about [songe] when one speaks of Islamic government.

Paper Without Books

From Libraries of the Future (1965):

As a medium for the display of information, the printed page is superb. It affords enough resolution to meet the eye's demand. It presents enough information to occupy the reader for a convenient quantum of time. It offers great flexibility of font and format. It lets the reader control the mode and rate of inspection. It is small, light, movable, cuttable, clippable, pastable, replicable, disposable, and inexpensive. Those positive attributes all relate, as indicated, to the display function. The tallies that could be made for the storage, organization, and retrieval functions are less favorable.

When printed pages are bound together to make books or journals, many of the display features of the individual pages are diminished or destroyed. Books are bulky and heavy. They contain much more information than the reader can apprehend at any given moment, and the excess often hides the part he wants to see. Books are too
expensive for universal private ownership, and they circulate too slowly to permit the development of an efficient public utility. Thus, except for use in consecutive reading — which is not the modal application in the domain of our study — books are not very good display devices. In fulfilling the storage function, they are only fair. With respect to retrievability they are poor. And when it comes to organizing the body of knowledge, or even to indexing and abstracting it, books by themselves make no active contribution at all.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Great Sewing Machine of Memory

Scott Horton, "Proust—Memory and the Foods of Childhood" (Harper's Magazine):

The image of Proust’s madeleine, a spongy almond-flavored cookie baked in a press to look like a scallop shell, a delight with an afternoon cup of tea or coffee, has become an icon for this reclusive writer. But what is Proust telling us in this passage? All memories are not created equal, he suggests, some are imprinted more strongly than others. One can have a very sharp recollection of a specific experience from one’s childhood, and still have forgotten entirely what one had for breakfast in the morning. Moreover, the long-past recollection need not even be associated with some objectively significant event, something traumatic, or happy, or historical. Second, he is pointing to the role that smell and taste play in memory, which may in fact be very intense but is not generally closely associated with memory. Third, he is noting that memory and its clarity and detail depend a lot on the mood of the individual, both at the time of the initial experience and at the time of occurrence.

One can struggle to recollection without success, and then the memory can come back suddenly, flooding the imagination of the rememberer, triggered by the strangest coincidence–the cup of linden-flower tea and the cookie, for instance. In our age, memory is facilitated greatly by artificial intelligence, by the Internet and computerized search programs. But the purely human memory has a very curious search program. The way we order and collect thoughts and memories is not entirely logical, and it links to all the senses–those of vision, touch, taste and sound. Our mind seems to act like a great sewing machine, stitching things together for reasons that may not immediately be present but which generally relate to the synchronization of the senses.



Proust called this kind of memory memoire involuntaire -- pretty much the opposite of the kind of thing you can Google search for.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Our Minds Are Made Of Meat

Jonah Lehrer on "Emotional Perception":

From its inception in the mid-1950's, the cognitive revolution was guided by a single metaphor: the mind is like a computer. We are a set of software programs running on 3 pounds of neural hardware. (Cognitive psychologists were interested in the software.) While the computer metaphor helped stimulate some crucial scientific breakthroughs - it led, for instance, to the birth of artificial intelligence and to insightful models of visual processing, from people like David Marr - it was also misleading, at least in one crucial respect. Computers don't have feelings. Because our emotions weren't reducible to bits of information or logical structures, cognitive psychologists diminished their importance.

Now we know that the mind is an emotional machine. Our moods aren't simply an irrational distraction, a mental hiccup that messes up the programming code. As this latest study demonstrates, what you're feeling profoundly influences what you see. Such data builds on lots of other work showing that our affective state seems to directly modulate the nature of attention, both external and internal, and thus plays a big role in regulating thinks like decision-making and creativity. (In short, positive moods widen the spotlight, while negative, anxious moods increase the focus.) From the perspective of the brain, it's emotions all the way down.



(From The Frontal Cortex.)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Hard Ideas in Hardcover

Peter J. Dougherty, "A Manifesto for Scholarly Publishing" - from ChronicleReview.com:

Books — specifically scholarly titles published by university presses and other professional publishers — retain two distinct comparative advantages over other forms of communication in the idea bazaar:

First, books remain the most effective technology for organizing and presenting sustained arguments at a relatively general level of discourse and in familiar rhetorical forms — narrative, thematic, philosophical, and polemical — thereby helping to enrich and unify otherwise disparate intellectual conversations.

Second, university presses specialize in publishing books containing hard ideas. Hard ideas — whether cliometrics, hermeneutics, deconstruction, or symbolic interactionism — when they are also good ideas, carry powerful residual value in their originality and authority. Think of the University of Illinois Press and its Mathematical Theory of Communication, still in print today. Commercial publishers, except for those who produce scientific and technical books, generally don't traffic in hard ideas. They're too difficult to sell in scalable numbers and quickly. More free-form modes of communication (blogs, wikis, etc.) cannot do justice to hard ideas in their fullness. But we university presses luxuriate in hard ideas. We work the Hegel-Heidegger-Heisenberg circuit. As the Harvard University Press editor Lindsay Waters notes, even when university presses succeed in publishing so-called trade books (as in Charles Taylor's recent hit, A Secular Age), we do so because of the intellectual rigor contained in such books, not in spite of it.

Hard ideas define a culture — that of serious reading, an institution vital to democracy itself. In a recent article, Stephen L. Carter, Yale law professor and novelist, underscores "the importance of reading books that are difficult. Long books. Hard books. Books with which we have to struggle. The hard work of serious reading mirrors the hard work of serious governing — and, in a democracy, governing is a responsibility all citizens share." The challenge for university presses is to better turn our penchant for hard ideas to greater purpose.



(Via Brainiac.)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Imaginationland

Andrew Sullivan in 2007:

The longer this war goes on and the more we find out, the following scenario seems to me to be the best provisional explanation for a lot of what our secret, unaccountable, extra-legal war-government has been doing - and the countless mistakes which have been laid bare. On 9/11, Cheney immediately thought of the worst possible scenario: What if this had been done with WMDs? It has haunted him ever since - for good and even noble reasons. This panic led him immediately to think of Saddam. But it also led him to realize that our intelligence was so crappy that we simply didn't know what might be coming. That's why the decision to use torture was the first - and most significant - decision this administration made. It is integral to the intelligence behind the war on terror. And Cheney's bizarre view of executive power made it easy in his mind simply to break the law and withdraw from Geneva because torture, in his mind, was the only weapon we had...

But torture gives false information. And the worst scenarios that tortured detainees coughed up - many of them completely innocent, remember - may well have come to fuel US national security policy. And of course they also fueled more torture. Because once you hear of the existential plots confessed by one tortured prisoner, you need to torture more prisoners to get at the real truth. We do not know what actual intelligence they were getting, and Cheney has ensured that we will never know. But it is perfectly conceivable that the torture regime - combined with panic and paranoia - created an imaginationland of untruth and half-truth that has guided US policy for this entire war. It may well have led to the president being informed of any number of plots that never existed, and any number of threats that are pure imagination. And once torture has entered the system, you can never find out the real truth. You are lost in a vortex of lies and fears. In this vortex, the actual threats that we face may well be overlooked or ignored, as we chase false leads and pursue non-existent WMDs.



(Via Jay Rosen.)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Internet Is Different Now

"Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest," Douglas Quenqua, NYTimes:

“Before you could be anonymous, and now you can’t,” said Nancy Sun, a 26-year-old New Yorker who abandoned her first blog after experiencing the dark side of minor Internet notoriety. She had started it in 1999, back when blogging was in its infancy and she did not have to worry too hard about posting her raw feelings for a guy she barely knew.

Ms. Sun’s posts to her blog — www.cromulent.org, named for a fake word from “The Simpsons” — were long and artful. She quickly attracted a large audience and, in 2001, was nominated for the “best online diary” award at the South by Southwest media powwow.

But then she began getting e-mail messages from strangers who had seen her at parties. A journalist from Philadelphia wanted to profile her. Her friends began reading her blog and drawing conclusions — wrong ones — about her feelings toward them. Ms. Sun found it all very unnerving, and by 2004 she stopped blogging altogether.

“The Internet is different now,” she said over a cup of tea in Midtown. “I was too Web 1.0. You want to be anonymous, you want to write, like, long entries, and no one wants to read that stuff.”

Um, Yeah; That's Not Cool

Publius at Obsidian Wings:

So there you have it – I’ve been officially outed by Ed Whelan. I would never have done that to my harshest critic in a million years, but oh well.

And to be clear – the proximate cause was that Whelan got mad that I criticized him in a blog post. More specifically, he’s mad that Eugene Volokh made him look rather silly – and he’s lashing out at me for pointing that out, and publishing my name...

As I told Ed (to no avail), I have blogged under a pseudonym largely for private and professional reasons. Professionally, I’ve heard that pre-tenure blogging (particularly on politics) can cause problems. And before that, I was a lawyer with real clients. I also believe that the classroom should be as nonpolitical as possible – and I don’t want conservative students to feel uncomfortable before they take a single class based on my posts. So I don’t tell them about this blog. Also, I write and research on telecom policy – and I consider blogging and academic research separate endeavors. This, frankly, is a hobby.

Privately, I don’t write under my own name for family reasons. I’m from a conservative Southern family – and there are certain family members who I’d prefer not to know about this blog (thanks Ed). Also, I have family members who are well known in my home state who have had political jobs with Republicans, and I don’t want my posts to jeopardize anything for them (thanks again).

All of these things I would have told Ed, if he had asked. Instead, I told him that I have family and professional reasons for not publishing under my own name, and he wrote back and called me an “idiot” and a “coward.” (I’ve posted the email exchange below).


Whalen's post is titled "Exposing an Irresponsible Anonymous Blogger":

In the course of a typically confused post yesterday, publius embraces the idiotic charge (made by “Anonymous Liberal”) that I’m “essentially a legal hitman” who “pores over [a nominee’s] record, finds some trivial fact that, when distorted and taken totally out of context, makes that person look like some sort of extremist.” In other of his posts (including two which I discussed here and here), publius demonstrated such a dismal understanding of the legal matters he opined on—including, for example, not understanding what common law is—that it was apparent to me that he had never studied law.

Well, I’m amused to learn that I was wrong about publius’s lack of legal education. I’ve been reliably informed that publius is in fact the pseudonym of law professor John F. Blevins of the South Texas College of Law. I e-mailed Blevins to ask him to confirm or deny that he is publius, and I copied the e-mail to the separate e-mail address, under the pseudonym “Edward Winkleman,” that publius used to respond to my initial private complaints about his reckless blogging. In response, I received from “Edward Winkleman” an e-mail stating that he is “not commenting on [his] identity” and that he writes under a pseudonym “[f]or a variety of private, family, and professional reasons.” I’m guessing that those reasons include that friends, family members, and his professional colleagues would be surprised by the poor quality and substance of his blogging.


(Edward Winkleman is actually a former member of Publius's group blog, Obsidian Wings.)

Scorsese and Kubrick Do This Really, Really Well

Matt Zoller Seitz, "On the Creepy Alluring Art of the Follow Shot," a video essay for The L Magazine:



"Following" is a montage of clips illustrating one of my favorite types of shots: one where the camera physically follows a character through his or her environment. I love this shot because it's neither first-person nor third; it makes you aware of a character's presence within the movie's physical world while also forcing identification with the character. I also love the sensation of momentum that following shots invariably summon. Because the camera is so close to the character(s) being followed, we feel that we're physically attached to those characters, as if by an invisible guide wire, being towed through their world, sometimes keeping pace, other times losing them as they weave through hallways, down staircases or through smoke or fog.



(Via Fimoculous.)

UrbanOutfitters is selling Olivettis

16650962_01_f.jpeg
UrbanOutfitters.com > Olivetti Manual Typewriter - Black:
There's nothing like the resounding "click" of an old-fashioned typewriter. Live out all of your next-great-writer fantasies with this classic travel machine from Olivetti, the 100 year-old Italian manufacturer favored by authors from Sylvia Plath to Stephen King. Features include: 49 keys with 86 symbols; margin stop with 8 stop tab keys; Space Bar with Repeater key; variable line space; paper and carriage release lever; ribbon color selector switch; black plastic housing and carrying case for secure transporting.



(Via Tomorrow Museum, who calls it "nostalgia tech". The less-creative counterpart to retronovation.)

Just What Is "the Passive Voice"?

Geoffrey K. Pullum, "Drinking the Strunkian Kool-Aid: victims of page 18":

Why are college-educated Americans so prone to think that simple active-voice intransitives like "bus blows up" or "took on racial overtones" or "were leaving" or "there will be setbacks" or "this happened," or even transitive examples like "has instructed us to," are in the passive voice?



(From Language Log.)

Bursting the Higher Education Bubble

"Will Higher Education Be the Next Bubble to Burst?" - The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Consumers who have questioned whether it is worth spending $1,000 a square foot for a home are now asking whether it is worth spending $1,000 a week to send their kids to college. There is a growing sense among the public that higher education might be overpriced and under-delivering.



And here's a new idea -- year-round college:

Two former college presidents, Charles Karelis of Colgate University and Stephen J. Trachtenberg of George Washington University, recently argued for the year-round university, noting that the two-semester format now in vogue places students in classrooms barely 60 percent of the year, or 30 weeks out of 52. They propose a 15-percent increase in productivity without adding buildings if students agree to study one summer and spend one semester abroad or in another site, like Washington or New York. Such a model may command attention if more education is offered without more tuition.

Brigham Young University-Idaho charges only $3,000 in tuition a year, and $6,000 for room and board. Classes are held for three semesters, each 14 weeks, for 42 weeks a year. Faculty members teach three full semesters, which has helped to increase capacity from 25,000 students over two semesters to close to 38,000 over three, with everyone taking one month (August) off. The president, Kim B. Clark, is a former dean of the Harvard Business School and an authority on using technology to achieve efficiencies. By 2012 the university also plans to increase its online offerings to 20 percent of all courses, with 120 online courses that students can take to enrich or accelerate degree completion.