May 2006

2006 05 31
In case you live in NYC have no plans for Friday evening

Posted by in: Music

The Restless Spirit Music Series
Yoon Sun Choi – voice and Jacob Sacks – piano
Friday, June 2, 2006
5C Cafe
68 Avenue C (corner of E5th and Ave C)
F train to 2nd Ave
Cover $8

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2006 05 30
Did Aristotle really not know anyone who could wiggle his or her ears?

Posted by in: Aristotle, Philosophy

From Aristotle’s History of Animals (492a23-24):

A human being alone, among creatures which have ears, is unable to move them.

Howls of outrage (9)

2006 05 27
After a lackluster performance all semester, did you really think that I would think that you know what the word “bacchanalia” means?

Posted by in: Odds and ends, Teaching

I’ve had a rash of plagiarism incidents this year, culminating in an especially bleak Spring semester, and it’s put me in a really foul mood. A few thoughts about this.

1. The difference between student-quality prose – even good student prose – and the prose found in published material – even lousy published material – is usually substantial. Obviously I have no way of telling how many cases of plagiarism I’m actually missing, but I have a sense that when you have a case, you usually just know. When a student cuts and pastes a paragraph from a web page into a paper, the jump from lousy to passable to lousy is so sudden and jarring that it’s like driving from a dirt road onto a newly paved highway and then suddenly back again. When the whole paper is ripped off, it probably still needs a bit of editing, which is usually done poorly enough to provide the tip off.

2. Some student plagiarists seem to think that changing a few words here and there, or adapting, or loosely paraphrasing most of the plagiarized material is going to help them. It doesn’t. I can still tell. A nice turn of phrase will slip through, a way of putting things, a grammatical choice – and then it’s just a matter of figuring out the source.

3. Speaking of figuring out the source, what the fuck is up with plagiarizing from the internet? It certainly makes my job easier, but it’s also just mind-bogglingly stupid. In the bad old days, substantiating a plagiarism charge – unless the instructor got lucky – was usually a matter of spending a few hours in the library. Thanks to internet-inspired plagiarism, I would say that my average hunch-to-confirmation time is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20 seconds. (But that’s the average, which is skewed a bit by a few really tough two or three minute jobs.)

4. Speaking of mind-bogglingly stupid, what the fuck is up with the assumption that I’m too stupid to notice the plagiarism? I’m not just disappointed and upset at these cases. I’m also insulted. What’s the matter with me that people are assuming they can pull this kind of shit in my class?

5. Speaking of what’s the matter with me, I find it difficult to avoid the conclusion that I must be doing something wrong. Next semester, I think I’m going to spend a lot more time talking about plagiarism, what it is, and just how seriously fucked you’ll be if you get caught doing it in my class. I think I’m also going to spend more time talking about the writing process in general, both because I want to eliminate anxiety about writing as a contributing cause of plagiarism and because I’m getting tired of seeing the same damn mistakes over and over again.

I’m putting together a little booklet of advice about this stuff in the next while. I’ll post it here in case anyone has any suggestions.

Update: Edited for coherence.

Howls of outrage (7)

2006 05 24
It’s not you. It’s me.

Posted by in: Metablog

What do you expect? It’s the end of the semester.

Howls of outrage (7)

2006 05 23
Body temperature

Posted by in: Health

I’ve noticed that if I’m really sleep-deprived, my body has trouble regulating its temperature. I’m most likely to end up shivering a lot even when it’s reasonably warm in the room. Is this common or am I a freak of nature? Or both?

Howls of outrage (4)

2006 05 20
Auf einer Burg

Posted by in: Music

This afternoon, I heard Yoon goofing around with Schumann Lieder. Previously, I had a vague dislike for Schumann and an impression, formed on the basis of very little evidence, that he was sort of dull. Well, obviously I’m a complete ass. The Lied “Auf einer Burg” is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

If anyone knows a good recording of this, I’d love to know.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 05 18
Support Amnesty through Amazon

Nick just sent this to me:

There’s an incredibly easy way to support the work of Amnesty International.

Amnesty is currently working on vital issues from victims of violence in
Darfur, to violence against women in Juarez, to the suppression, detainment
and torture of journalists in The Gambia. These are only a handful of the
injustices you can help fight by SHOPPING! has an agreement to donate 5 – 10% of all proceeds from sales
made from click-throughs from Amnesty International. So the next time you
shop, instead of typing in “” just click the amazon link from: It doesn’t cost anything
extra, there’s nothing special to fill in… just a click.

Please forward this to friends and family!


AI Brooklyn

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2006 05 18
Fe-link cumpleanos!

Posted by in: Odds and ends

Happy Birthday to our leerless feeder, as his odometer ticks over yet again.

Howls of outrage (3)

2006 05 17
Just . . . please . . . go away

Posted by in: Anecdotal

I rode the elevator today with the nosy, annoying old lady who lives in our building. I usually just walk up the stairs, but the dog has arthritis, so I was forced into the following exchange:

Annoying Old lady: What a nice dog.
Me: Thanks.
AOL: But I don’t like him.
Me: Oh. He’s very safe. Very safe.
AOL: Good.
Me: [staring at floor]
AOL: Your wife is Chinese?
Me: No. Korean.
AOL: Ooooooooh, they’re gooooooood women.
Me: !?!?!?!
AOL: So . . . did you meet her in Vietnam or somethin’?
Me: ?!?!?!? Uh, no, we’re both Canadian.
AOL: Ahhhhh, isn’t that nice.
Me: [exit hastily]

This must be the fifth or sixth time she’s inquired as to Yoon’s ethnicity since we moved in to the building 8 months ago. Even making allowances for age and senility, this seems a bit much. We’re in Brooklyn. Surely mixed race couples aren’t that unusual. And what possible combination of assumptions and prejudices could lead her to ask whether I met her in Vietnam? I’m not completely sure, but there’s something about the way she asks these questions that makes me think that she thinks that the principle attraction of such a union is that my wife sucky-fucky long time.

Howls of outrage (12)

2006 05 16
Culinary patents

I’m reading through Book XII of Athenaeus’s Deipnosophists, which is devoted to the theme of luxury and pleasure. (In spite of being a very silly book, it preserves some valuable philosophical material on the topic that would be otherwise lost.) Anyway, the author goes on at considerable length about the luxurious habits of the Sybarites, and then this:

Again, if any caterer or cook invented a dish of his own which was especially choice, it was his privilege that no one else but the inventor himself should adopt the use of it before the lapse of a year, in order that the first man to invent a dish might possess the right of manufacture during that period, so as to encourage others to excel in eager competition with similar inventions.

A footnote in the Loeb edition to the work claims – whether correctly or not I have no idea – that this is the earliest known patent-law.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 05 15
Renowned journalist Mark Steyn staggered through an unoriginal review

Posted by in: Pundits

Steyn: Not very original.

UPDATE: and see further.


A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2006 05 12

Posted by in: Left Blogistan

Today, Norm profiles Jonathan Edelstein, probably the most shockingly well-informed person I’ve ever had a beer with. If you don’t know Edelstein’s blog and you find “democratization and rule of law in developing countries, comparative diasporas and minorities, international law and legal history” interesting, you ought to head over and give it a try.

Howls of outrage (4)

2006 05 12
On the international monitoring of elections

Posted by in: Political issues

I may be wrong about this, but I have the impression that international elections monitors only get called in to monitor elections in countries with large-scale worries about vote fraud. It’s not clear to me why this is so. I think one effect of the non-universality of international vote monitoring is that dodgy people in power can claim that they don’t fall into the category of “country to worry about.” Of course, when they do claim this they’re being transparently silly, but still, it’s nice to cut off idiotic rhetoric in as clear and compelling a way as possible. Also, even countries – cough cough – with long-established democratic traditions have potential problems with vote fraud.

So here’s my proposal: Why don’t countries like Canada and Norway and Australia and so on get together and invite international election monitors to monitor their own federal elections? The program could be run through the UN and subsidized by the richer countries inviting election monitors in. It seems to me that this would help to build pressure for an expanded presence of election monitors in places that badly need it. If everyone was doing it, as we remember from high school, it would be that much harder to resist.

Howls of outrage (7)

2006 05 12
Show on Sunday in Brooklyn

Posted by in: Music

If you live in Windsor Terrance, or on the F line, you might enjoy this:

Yoon Sun Choi’s E String Band

Yoon Sun Choi – Voice
Thomas Morgan – Guitar
Jacob Sacks – Melodica
Khabu Doug Young – Eukelele

Sunday, May 14th
7pm (one set only)

Crossroads Cafe
1241a Prospect Ave
Brooklyn, NY

No Cover

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2006 05 11
The Mind of Manolo

Posted by in: History

I’m shopping for dress shoes. In my web research, I went to this page of Manolo Blahnik shoe designs. (warning: Flash interface)

Do his sketches remind you of anything? Look at his sketches — not the shoes, but the sketches themselves. I realize it’s not a big shocker that high heels are similar in some ways to footbinding, but for chrissakes, look at his sketches and look at that first picture of a bound foot (linked from “remind”).

And, as a bonus, enjoy the fruits of my googling. Here are a bunch of fascinating personal interviews about footbinding in China in the 20th century.

Howls of outrage (6)