July 2006

2006 07 27
Show on Friday

Posted by in: Music

It’s a fun band.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Yoon’s E-String Band
Jacob Sacks – melodica
Khabu Doug Young – ukulele
Thomas Morgan – guitar
Vinnie Sperrazza – “laptop” drum and cymbal
Yoon Sun Choi – toy piano, voice

Perch Cafe
365 5th Ave (between 5th-6th St)
Park Slope, Brooklyn

$5 donation (suggested)

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 07 27
An Open Letter to “Rush is a Band”

Posted by in: Anecdotal, Metablog, Music

Early morning perusal of my referral logs — a Scallywag-in-Chief never rests, you know — alerted me to the fact that someone recently posted a remark on the fan site Rush is a Band, using this site as a sort of electronic calling card. The quality of the comment — juvenile, petulant, inane — would not permit me to believe that the source of the comment could be anyone legitimately connected with this site. Here indeed was a mystery.

I turned my investigative skills, finely honed by years spent delving into ancient texts, to the task. Certain clues in the comment were enough for me to ascertain the probable culprit. I had encountered this brand of deviance before. A quick email of accusation followed. The blustering non-response to my well-aimed missive was as good as a confession. Another case closed here at Explananda.

Allow me to assure the proprieters and readers of Rush is a Band that the commenter is associated with this site only in the sense that bird droppings are associated with a park bench: present, to be sure, but neither by design nor invitation. In order to remedy matters, I have taken the step of sending a select band of “enforcers” to the residence of our unlucky commenter. I doubt he will trouble you again.

As grave a concern as the sullying of our distinguished brand is, I must conclude by noting that an even more fundamental issue here is one of civility and respect, which is as important on the internet as it is anywhere else in life. No one deserves to be spoken to in this way, not even a bunch of fucking Rush fans.

Your humble servant, and etc., and etc.,

Chris, Scallywag-in-Chief of Explananda

Howls of outrage (6)

2006 07 27

Posted by in: Political issues

Not good. So not good.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 07 25
On the relation between testicles and vocal cords, according to Aristotle

Posted by in: Aristotle

I have almost finished working through Aristotle’s biological works, hunting for inspiration and clues. I have found much to admire: Aristotle was the head of one of the most ambitious scientific research projects ever undertaken, and the sheer mass of detail and theoretical sophistication found in the resulting works is often breathtaking. And then there are passages like this, breathtaking mainly because I’m laughing too hard to breathe properly:

All animals when castrated change over to the female state, and as their sinewy strength is slackened at its source they emit a voice similar to that of females. This slackening may be illustrated in the following way. It is as though you were to stretch a cord and make it taut by hanging some weight on to it, just as women do who weave at the loom; they stetch the warp by hanging stone weights on to it. This is the way in which the testes are attached to the seminal passages, which in their turn are attached to the blood-vessel which has its starting-point at the heart near the part which sets the voince in movement. And so, as the seminal passages undergo a change at the approach of the age when they can secrete semen, this part undergoes a simultaneous change. And as this changes, so too does the voice . . . If the testes are removed, the tautness of the passages is slackened, just as when the weight is removed from the cord or from the warp; and as this slackens, the source (or principle) which sets the voice in movement is correspondingly loosened. This then is the cause on account of which castrated animals change over to the female condition both as regards the voice and the rest of their form: it is because the principle from which the tautness of the body is derived is slackened. (Generation of Animals, V.vii, Loeb translation)

Howls of outrage (9)

2006 07 22
Poetry is classy.

Posted by in: Odds and ends

Improving classic poetry by adding “fuck you, clown”. It’s at Unfogged so maybe you’ve seen it already, but oh my holy gazoley, if you know canonical English poetry this is effing hilarious.

Howls of outrage (3)

2006 07 20
Moral equivalence, and all that

Here is Michael Young, not a guy given to drammatic or foolish claims:

The Israelis have not�or not yet�bombed the electricity grid serving Beirut and the areas north of it, so there is still running water. However, they have begun to attack large trucks, on the grounds that they might be carrying Hezbollah rockets. As a result, truck drivers are terrified of taking to the roads, making the movement of medical and other emergency supplies all the more laborious.
[. . . ]
But this time, the attacks are also more alarming, because they are not limited, as they were then, to a sector of the capital. All of Lebanon is a target; all access roads, airports, and ports have been blocked or are in constant danger of being attacked, and a much larger swath of civilians are in danger. According to eyewitnesses in southern Lebanon, including journalist friends of mine, the destruction of villages is the worse they’ve ever seen�both intense and systematic�and it’s not Hezbollah that is usually on the receiving end of the ordnance, it is civilians. Much the same is taking place away from the cameras in the northern Beqaa Valley, another majority-Shiite area. As for the Hezbollah stronghold in the Haret Hreik quarter of Beirut’s southern suburbs, it has been reduced to dust. While this may have made it a legitimate objective, the suburbs have probably the highest concentration of inhabitants in Beirut, and virtually everybody has fled.
[. . .]
The politics of a settlement are complicated. Israel initially said its attacks were an effort to secure the release of its two kidnapped soldiers and to disarm Hezbollah. The latter objective, as even Israeli officials now recognize, is not achievable. No state will try seizing the party’s arms by force, nor is that feasible at this stage, and Hezbollah will not surrender them willingly. That’s why the Israeli strategy at first hand appears to be much simpler: to impose an abysmally high blood tax on the Lebanese in general, and Shiites in particular, so Hezbollah will not again think of kidnapping its soldiers or bombarding its territory.

And see also Matthew Yglesias’s comments on this.

OK, so here is my question: In what ways does this differ morally from a policy of suicide bombing directed against civilians? Here are the rules:

1. If you don’t think they differ morally, then I probably already know what you think. Try to exercise your ingenuity by focusing on the moral differences, lest it turn into one of those threads.

2. Don’t tell me that Young is simply mistaken about the facts. Assume that he’s right for the sake of argument.

3. Don’t point to the justice of Israeli war aims or to Hezbollah’s provocations. You may be entirely right, but you’ll also be missing the point. Most of us (quite rightly) insist that the policy of suicide bombing could not be justified by an appeal to the justice of the Palestinian cause. We insist on this because we (quite rightly) distinguish between just aims and just means. The issue here is the means, not the ends.

4. Be polite.

Howls of outrage (25)

2006 07 19
MBNA Bastards

Posted by in: Anecdotal

This happened again, with the other fuckers I do business with.

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2006 07 19

Posted by in: Books, Classics

I was waylaid by a garrulous neighbour yesterday while walking the dog. He held me captive until, after about 5 minutes, I had to just start walking away from him. Without fairly aggressive evasive action I’m sure I would have passed the day away under the sun nodding along to a stream of reflections on the weather, the neighbourhood, and etc. etc. etc.

Anyway, this reminded me of Theophrastus. Theophrastus was a friend and associate of Aristotle’s, and, after Aristotle’s death, his successor as head of the Lyceum, the school that Aristotle founded in Athens. Theophrastus was, like Aristotle, a genius and a polymath, producing works on botany, rhetoric, metaphysics and many other subjects. He also wrote a short work on different character types, which you can read in its entirety here, courtesy of at eudaimonist, a wonderful and elegant little site.

To give you an idea, here is Theophrastus’s Garrulous Man:

The Garrulous Man is one who will sit down beside a person whom he does not know, and first pronounce a panegyric on his own wife; then relate his dream of last night; then go through in detail what he has had for dinner. Then, warming to the work, he will remark that the men of the present day are greatly inferior to the ancients; and how cheap wheat has become in the market; and what a number of foreigners are in town; and that the sea is navigable after the Dionysia; and that, if Zeus would send more rain, the crops would be better; and that he will work his land next year; and how hard it is to live; and that Damippus set up a very large torch at the Mysteries; and How many columns has the Odeum? and that yesterday he was unwell; and What is the day of the month?; and that the Mysteries are in Bodromion, the Apaturia in Pyanepsion, the rural Dionysia in Poseideon. Nor, if he is tolerated, will he ever desist.

And here is the Unseasonable Man (i.e., the man with bad timing):

The Unseasonable Man is one who will go up to a busy person, and open his heart to him. He will serenade his mistress when she has a fever. He will address himself to a man who has been cast in a surety-suit, and request him to become his security. He will come to give evidence when the trial is over. When he is asked to a wedding, he will inveigh against womankind. He will propose a walk to those who have just come off a long journey. He has a knack, also, of bringing a higher bidder to him who has already found his market. He loves to rise and go through a long story to those who have heard it and know it by heart; he is zealous, too, in charging himself with offices which one would rather not have done, but is ashamed to decline. When people are sacrificing and incurring expense, he will come to demand his interest. If he is present at the flogging of a slave, he will relate how a slave of his own was once beaten in the same way � and hanged himself; or, assisting at an arbitration, he will persist in embroiling the parties when they both wish to be reconciled. And, when he is minded to dance, he will seize upon another person who is not yet drunk.

I think what makes these so funny is the strange blend of foreign and familiar. We all know such people – that’s half the pleasure, as it must have been for Theophrastus’s original audience – but we don’t know them with many of these details. Anyone who studies a foreign culture, either temporally or geographically foreign, knows this feeling, but I think it’s especially strong when we read this work because Theophrastus has drawn his characters so well and so concretely.

Theophrastus’s Characters was a real hit. Not only has it been read and appreciated since he wrote it, but it also spawned an entire (sub?)genre of literature. If you’re interested there’s more here, and even more elsewhere if you keep looking – and perhaps even more still waiting to be written.

Howls of outrage (9)

2006 07 19
What to do? What to do?

Confused about how to stop the carnage in the Middle East? It’s actually pretty simple. Take it away, Charlie K!

The road to a solution is therefore clear: Israel liberates south Lebanon and gives it back to the Lebanese.

It starts by preparing the ground with air power, just as the Persian Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign. But if all that happens is the air campaign, the result will be failure. Hezbollah will remain in place, Israel will remain under the gun, Lebanon will remain divided and unfree. And this war will start again at a time of Hezbollah and Iran’s choosing.

Just as in Kuwait in 1991, what must follow the air campaign is a land invasion to clear the ground and expel the occupier. Israel must retake south Lebanon and expel Hezbollah. It would then declare the obvious: that it has no claim to Lebanese territory and is prepared to withdraw and hand south Lebanon over to the Lebanese army (augmented perhaps by an international force), thus finally bringing about what the world has demanded — implementation of Resolution 1559 and restoration of south Lebanon to Lebanese sovereignty.

It must be difficult for deep thinkers like Krauthammer to distill so much wisdom into the short space of a newspaper column. Still, I can’t help wishing he had some opportunity (a blog?) to unpack this argument a bit for the squeamish. To pick the obvious difficulty here, I wonder if expelling Hezbollah from Lebanon might be harder to actually do than it is for Krauthammer to dream up and set down in words. How much harder? Hmmmmm, here’s where it would be helpful to have Mr. K explain why this time would be easier than last time. You know, with an argument. The deep integration of Hezbollah into the South of Lebanon means that expelling it would require a massively bloody, protracted military campaign with widespread civilian carnage and destruction of property, so Krauthammer can’t possibly have that in mind, can he?

But there I go doubting again. And you know, that’s the real problem here. It’s not that the roots of the problem go far deeper than Hezbollah, or that more energetic and far less scrupulous killing would have effects difficult to contain, some easily forseeable and some not. It’s that doubters lack will:

Only two questions remain: Israel’s will and America’s wisdom.

That, in a nutshell, is the American right’s response to most doubts about the prudence of its policy prescriptions: the problem is not with the conflict between the prescription and reality, but rather between reality and our own hearts. Root out all doubt and the rest will follow . . . just as it did in Iraq, where schools are being painted as we speak and children of all faiths join hands and sing pro-American songs all the live long day.

Howls of outrage (4)

2006 07 17
Stop doing this shit, and it’s over

Oops. Someone left a microphone on:

“The irony is, what they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it’s over,” Mr Bush was heard to say.

In a nice touch, the BBC is careful to note that it was Mr. Blair who eventually noticed that the microphone was on.

I sometimes wonder if Matthew Yglesias overdoes it when he claims that Republicans are working within a conceptual framework which simply can’t accomodate many features of Middle Eastern radicalism. But presumably Bush is parroting something someone he trusts told him about the problem, so I think this little unguarded moment is fairly revealing.

I don’t doubt that the connections between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are potentially quite illuminating. But along with many other observers, I’m inclined to suspect that Hezbollah has its own agenda, is aware that its interests don’t coincide with any other state players, and would not disappear were state players to withdraw support altogether. Nor would any of the underlying problems in the region be “over” if Hezbollah vanished in a poof of malevolent smoke overnight.

I could be wrong about this, or Bush could, but either way I think there’s a serious difference of analysis here. It’s revealing of a larger difference in how different sides of this debate understand the way the world works.

Howls of outrage (8)

2006 07 14
Show Sunday

Posted by in: Music

More fun, fun, fun:


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Yoon Sun Choi – voice
Jacob Garchik – Trombone
Jacob Sacks – rhodes
David Ambrosio – bass
Dan Weiss – drums

55 Bar
55 Christopher St
1/9 train to Christopher Station

Cover $5

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2006 07 14

A theme I see pursued occasionally on academic blogs like Crooked Timber or Timothy Burke’s site is openness in research and teaching. I think this page, set up by Monte Johnson to detail his work with D.S. Hutchinson on Aristotle’s Protrepticus, is an model of open and generous scholarship. It assembles quite a lot of useful material on the subject, and includes some transcripts from a seminar they co-taught this summer. Since my dissertation touches on the subject of their research, this has been extremely helpful to me.

Anyway, I loved this bit from Papyrus Fragment POxy 3659, which they translate as follows:

And what about the philosophers themselves? If you confined them in the one house and an equal number of madmen in another house next door, you would get much, much greater howls from the philosophers than from the madmen!

(The fragment is of unknown provenance, and is included in their collection of texts because it might be relevant to Aristotle’s Protrepticus.)

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2006 07 13
And let me guess, his nickname is “Rigid”

Posted by in: Sex

Taking a little break, I just stumbled across this page of reprints of various journal articles. Anyway, I couldn’t believe these two were real, but apparently they are:

Cocks, Harry G. (2002) “Sporty” girls and “artistic” boys: friendship, illicit sex, and the British “companionship” advertisement, 1913 – 1928. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 11 (3). pp. 457-482. ISSN 1043-4070

Cocks, Harry (2002) Naughty narrative nineties: sex, scandal, and representation in the fin de si�cle. Journal of British Studies, 41 (4). pp. 526-536. ISSN 0021-9371

How do you live down a name like that? How do you live down a name like that when you work on sexuality?

Howls of outrage (3)

2006 07 11
On seeing “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” again

Posted by in: Movies

Gosh, what a fast-paced ending.

Howls of outrage (10)

2006 07 11
Diocles of Carystus and the cucumbers of Antioch

Posted by in: Academia, Books, History

This is from an Appendix to the English translation of Jaeger’s Aristotle: Fundamentals of the History of His Development:

Diocles’ work on diet was dedicated to a certain Plistarchus. Wellmann never asked who this man was. Beloch, in a short footnote of his Greek History, asks whether he was a Macedonian prince, brother of Cassander and one of the younger sons of Antipater. This is, indeed, highly probable. Antipater was Alexander’s man of confidence, whom he entrusted with the administration of Macedonia and Greece during the long years of his absence in Asia. Aristotle had met Antipater when he was the educator of Alexander at King Philip’s court, and from that time until his death Antipater remained his most intimate friend. Aristotle appointed him in his will as general executor. He and his son Cassander were the protectors of the Peripatetic school after Alexander’s and Aristotle’s deaths. Plistarchus became king of Lycia and Caria after the battle of Ipsus in 301. Almost all the Hellenistic kings were protectors of science and philosophy. The dedication of scientific works to princes and other powerful men is a custom which begins shortly before Alexander’s time and throws much light on the relations of philosophical schools and politics. Moreover, in one of Diocles’ books the cucumbers of of Antioch were recommended. Antioch was founded in the year 300 B.C. Thus Diocles wrote his book in the third, not in the beginning of the fourth century.

I love the relentless accumulation of detail, some of it not entirely relevant, building until it reaches the final, victorious piece of evidence: a reference to a cucumber! My emotional response to this is, of course, complex: The anti-climax in finding a cucumber at the end of all this mingles with the excitement of what appears to be a very nice use of evidence. I am then distracted by Jaeger’s use of italics, which are just so earnest here that the excitement is replaced by amusement.

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