October 2006

2006 10 30
Worth, I imagine, at least 100,000 lives just by itself

Among the successes of the Iraq War, “the introduction of a convertible currency.”

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2006 10 30
Show on Thursday

Posted by in: Music

Yoon and her friend Jacob just recorded an album of Joe Raposo music. Joe Raposo is the guy who wrote a lot of the best Sesame Street music (“Being Green,” “Sing,” etc.). They’re putting on an all-Raposo show this Thursday. Come out! It’ll be fun.

The Raposo Project
(Music by Joe Raposo)

Yoon Sun Choi – voice
Jacob Sacks – keyboard
Mike McGinnis – woodwinds
Vinnie Sperrazza – percussion

Thursday, November 2
8:30pm – 11:00pm
Perch Cafe
365 5th Ave (between 5th and 6th Street)
Park Slope, Brooklyn
F or N and R train to 4th Ave or 9th Street

$5 (suggested donation)

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 10 29

Posted by in: Odds and ends

If you haven’t already seen it, do read this article in the NYT about elephants. Although I am (obviously) among the manliest of manly men, I must confess to being almost moved to tears.

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2006 10 29
Now with new features

Posted by in: Metablog

I’ve added a new “Recently commented on” feature to the blog so that readers will be able to see at a glance what posts I’m continuing the conversation with myself in.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 10 29

This post by Daniel Davies seems uncharacteristically weak. My main beef with it is his casual assertion that for the “Decents” (left wing supporters of the Iraq War for humanitarian reasons) it “was never about the Iraqis,” so we should not give them “the benefit of the doubt when it comes to questioning the sincerity of their concern for the Iraqis.”

It’s not the nastiness here I object to. Good political invective ought to wound. It ought to make us imagine a target with even a modest amount of self-awareness grimacing. Davies’ invective falls flat because the claim here is so obviously false. Of course there must be some supporters of the war for humanitarian reasons who really couldn’t care less about Iraqis, and for whom it’s all about the posturing. But so what? There are clearly many who really do care.

Having said that, I think there are a range of ways to respond to a position that has had absolutely wretched effects: careful argument, satire, ridicule, invective. All of these seem appropriate depending on the target. But broad denunciations of the sincerity of this group as a whole seems different from any of these styles of response at their best.

Davies defends his post in the comments as follows:

It would of course be possible to make the same points without gloating at the Decents, but to be frank I have given up on trying to be nice after Brian Brivati wrote that piece of crap earlier this week accusing people like me of being complicit in genocide. As far as I’m concerned, if that’s their attitude then they can wear it; this disaster has their name on it, not mine, and I am no longer inclined to be either quiet or polite about that fact.

But Brivati is just one person, and he doesn’t speak for all the people swept up in Davies’ comment.

There are surely some people in the anti-war camp who don’t really give a shit about human lives either, and who say stupid or outrageous things, but that wouldn’t justify a broad and ill-focused smear on the anti-war crowd. That’s exactly the kind of nonsense that drives me bonkers from right-wingers.

Howls of outrage (9)

2006 10 28
Addendum to “A quick response”

DC points out in the comments to this post that Norm pretty clearly misunderstands one of the main points I was trying to make earlier. I noticed this when I first read Norm’s response, but got distracted by the other point I was trying to make, and then got too busy to bother with yet another follow up. Still, I probably should object to the misunderstanding since a) not objecting might falsely give the impression that I think Norm has got my view right; and b) there really is a substantive issue here that isn’t being addressed because of the misreading.

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2006 10 28
Pot smoking prof gone mad accomplishes nothing since 1997

(This is Part IV of my Pot Smoking Prof Gone Mad series.  Previous installments:
Part I: Letter of Reference
Part II: Guardian Blog on Hutchinson
Part III: Another young life destroyed by pot smoking prof gone mad)

This article by John Intini in Macleans magazine on Doug Hutchinson isn’t bad at all.  It gets most of the facts of Doug’s case out in a sympathetic, or at least, neutral, way.  One serious defect in the piece is worth mentioning, however.  The piece describes his research in this way:

He still has a full teaching load, but since working on Plato: Complete Works — published in 1997 — his research slate has been “basically blank.” Unfinished work — including the editing of Aristotle’s ethics — has been set aside for now. “I’m very open to carry on my university research on marijuana,” he says. “I’d rather do this than find a new lost work of Aristotle. Why? Because it’s important to Canadians, right now.”

There’s an error of fact and an error of emphasis in that paragraph.  First the error of fact: Doug recently published (2005), with co-author Monte Johnson, an extremely important paper on Aristotle’s Protrepticus.  The paper appeared in Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, perhaps the most prestigous publication in our subdiscipline.  Running just over a hundred pages the paper is a painstaking investigation into aspects of a literary and philosophical mystery regarding a lost work of Aristotle’s.  To say that the paper runs just over a hundred pages gives an incomplete sense of the amount of work involved in its production.  In fact, it is only a summary of a large project involving the collation of manuscripts, translation of texts, and philosophical analysis and argument.   (Full disclosure: I’m thanked in the paper for feedback.)  And, to put it as delicately as I can, unlike so much crap that gets published in even the most august and celebrated of our journals, this work actually extends our understanding of an issue.  I am confident that it will be read by scholars in two or three hundred years because it makes that kind of advance in our understanding.  There are very few papers about which you can say that without looking like an ass. 

So, I would call that an error of fact.  It matters because it’s likely to influence the way a reader judges Doug’s performance as a scholar.  The other error, the error of emphasis, involves conflating scholarly performance with the quantity of published material.  Now of course publishing is very important.  But scholars also deliver papers, and when they do that, they enhance the reputation of the institutions associated with them, along, one hopes, with the state of knowledge in their discipline.  So, for example, the conference in Venice and Padua in the summer of 1998 ought to count here: It’s an honour to have an entire conference organized around your research.  (Full disclosure: I had a role in the conference.)  And we should also count a number of other papers currently in preparation which Doug has given in various places over the past few years.

Finally, the paragraph I quoted mentions the editing of Aristotle’s ethics as one of the projects on hold, but there is no way for a reader to get a sense of what is involved in even the preliminary aspects of a work of this nature.  This is simply a massive project, one into which Doug has poured many hundreds of hours (I did too, back when I was actively involved in it).  It’s daunting enough that no one, to my knowledge, has made a serious attempt at it in well over a century.  It’s not the kind of project that we would expect to see results from immediately in any case, so it’s precisely the kind of project that we might reasonably expect to result in several years of “official” silence during which no publications resulted from the  research.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2006 10 24
Another young life destroyed by pot smoking prof gone mad

Actually, not so much.

(This is Part III of my Pot Smoking Prof Gone Mad series. Other installments:
Part I: Letter of Reference
Part II: Guardian Blog on Hutchinson
Part IV: Pot smoking prof gone mad accomplishes nothing since 1997)

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 10 24
A quick response, or, more pretentiously, On silence and evasion

Posted by in: Political issues

“You’ve been blogging again,” my mother reproached me recently.
“What? No I haven’t.”
“Yes you have.”
“No, there was just that one week when things got out of hand. But I had a huge stack of papers to grade, and I got depressed and started procrastinating.”

So you see, I’ve got to keep this short. But I do think I owe Norm some response to this. Among other things, Norm writes that “bloggers should write about what they want to when they want to.” Well, I agree to a point, but I think there are limits to this which Norm doesn’t mention. Silence is usually not evasion, and especially not in amateur blog writing, where there are far fewer pretentions to comprehensiveness in the treatment of any subject. But there are patterns of silence that are evasive, even in blog writing.
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Howls of outrage (12)

2006 10 23
Bottoms of trousers rolled? Check. Dare to eat a peach? Check. Walk upon beach? Check. Mermaids singing, each to each? Check.

Posted by in: Fitness blogging

Fucking hell, my hip hurts. Again. And I’m only 33. What’s up with that?

Update: And don’t you dare tell me to stretch after I exercise! I hate stretching! Grumblegrumbleyoukidsgetoffamylawngrumblegrumble.

Howls of outrage (4)

2006 10 22
Oatmeal Pancakes

Posted by in: Food

These pancakes are wonderful. The secret, I think, is the inclusion of oatmeal, which gives them a certain I-don’t-know-quoi. I served them with bacon, bananas and strawberries (rather than the marmalade and clotted cream recommended in the recipe, and also used yogurt instead of buttermilk) to Yoon this morning, as part of her welcome home after a week on the road (I also cleaned the entire apartment, did the laundry, rearranged the netflix cue earlier in the week so that her favourite show would be waiting for her, bought flowers and a card, made a nice dinner for last night, and made it subtly clear that although I was randy of course I knew she wouldn’t feel like nookie after a long day on the road. The moral of the story is: isn’t it funny how low, low, low cultural expectations of men make minimally decent behaviour appear, if you squint just so, almost supererogatory?).

Howls of outrage (8)

2006 10 22
Fitness blogging (“Look like a tool yet persist” Edition)

Posted by in: Fitness blogging

My new gym has a punching bag and a speed bag. Both are awfully difficult to use without looking like a tool. The speed bag is also difficult to use without looking like a dweeb, if, like me, you lack the co-ordination to get the rhythm right. (On the top of that, I think the bag is a bit underinflated.)

And yet I persist.

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2006 10 20
Hume on wood

Posted by in: Philosophy, Sex

From Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Chapter VI (Of Qualities Useful to Ourselves):

What derision and contempt, with both sexes, attend impotence; while the unhappy object is regarded as one deprived of so capital a pleasure in life, and at the same time, as disabled from communicating it to others. Barrenness in women, being also a species of inutility, is a reproach, but not in the same degree: Of which the reason is very obvious, according to the present theory.

That’s awfully raunchy by the standards of the 18th Century British moralists, isn’t it? At least, I don’t remember anything in, for example, Butler’s sermons on the importance being able to maintain an erection.

Howls of outrage (8)

2006 10 20
The Gelb plan to partition Iraq

Right, as I complained a long time ago. The very fact that this plan is being tossed around by Americans is frustrating. It isn’t their choice. It just isn’t. And even if it were the best solution for Iraq, it would be wrong and dangerous for the U.S. to play a crucial role in bringing it about or in taking credit for it afterwards.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 10 19
Correction to an old anecdote

Posted by in: Anecdotal

By the way, Nick mentioned to me the other night that it was a cow suit, and not a bunny suit, as originally reported. I haven’t been able to make up my mind if this makes the story funnier. I have a vague sense that it does, but haven’t yet been able to pin down why exactly.

Howls of outrage (3)