Tuesday, July 29, 2008

So cool

I meant to share this sooner.  Super cool, cuz it's for real

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thoughts, Questions

I don't know a whole lot about art.  But, I can remember defining it in a course once, as "a creative act of representation". 
  • how does this conflict (or not) with the idea of 'found art'
  • is 'found art' really art
  • if so, then how does definition get reconciled...since 'found art' doesn't (on its face...) seem creative or representative
  • (can you represent a thing with itself?)
  • (where does the creativity come from?)
  • maybe a thing loses its original identity or function when it is given a new function as art?  as such, it represents its former self, sort of like animals in a zoo
  • which brings up....the frame.  maybe the creativity is found in how the thing is framed

Also, something the director of Pan's Labyrinth said in the director's commentary.... about symbols.  He said, symbols have to be ambiguous, because otherwise, they become ciphers, and the movie becomes a formula.  This sort of touches, I think, on how people with no experience with art approach it....
  • commonly, people seek the meaning, the answer, the artist's message
  • artists are asked, "what do you mean by this?"  and they respond cryptically, or not at all, or ....
  • is it art, if it has a deliverable message?
  • because if there is a direct answer to "what is the meaning of this painting?", well, there's not really any mystery left is there.  it becomes a cipher, or a puzzle to be solved...
  • ...or not even that, perhaps it's a portrait.  it could be admired for its technical skill or the fineness of the representation.... is there more to it?*
  • does art hate objectivity?  (note to self....blog this)
  • so...seek whatever you want in a work of art.  look for function, look for answers, look for questions, look for asthetics.  look for yourself. 

How is the constraint of so much work being done via keyboard and mouse changing human thinking as a whole?  Is there more cognitive freedom in a blank sheet of paper and a pen(cil)?  What if we had invented a different way to record knowledge, how would that have changed us?

I watched Volver tonight and liked it.  I liked the way Raimunda gets approached at the restaurant and rejects the guy, and how he graciously accepts this.  I struggle to picture this in American film.  I also really liked the scene of 4 women heaving a refrigerator (with a dead body inside) into a truck.

* Yes:
"There are two ways to think about this existence we have. One of them is that it's Wednesday and it's three fifteen and we're talking here in my home, and at four o'clock I have to leave for another meeting. Now, that's a reality. But there's another reality. We're in the solar system of a second-rate star, three quarters of the way out on a spiral arm of an average galaxy in a thing called the Local Group. And ours is only one of billions of galaxies, each of which has billions of stars. Some star systems are binary, and there could be a planet that revolves around a center of gravity between two binary stars. So you'd have two sunrises and two sunsets every day. One could be a red giant, the other a white dwarf; two different-sized, -shaped, and -colored suns in the sky. And there might be other planets and comets. In other words, fuck Wednesday, fuck three fifteen, fuck four o'clock, fuck the United States, fuck the earth. It's all temporal bullshit. I like thinking about being out there and not thinking about the corporate structure, not worrying about freedom, and not worrying about guns. I chose a life of ideas. That entertains me. That nourishes me."  - George Carlin

Really, there's no need to self-incriminate. We already know...

And, you have a constitutional protection against being forced to bear witness against yourself.  If you go in for, you know, the constitution...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blog and wine

No wine glass only wine with which to toast the awesomeness of BitchPHD

Oh good. People do care about something..

Yes.  People are organizing to save their starbucks.

Meanwhile, God gave up.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dammit. I don't think a word exists to describe this


The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

(emphasis mine)

Seriously?  Seriously!????

Movie: Pan's Labyrinth


This movie left me stunned.

Also, at what age do we make that switch, after which we would no longer follow any random fairy who showed up to wherever they led us?

Part 1: Decision-level


Part 1: Decision-level objectivity

Part 2: As a basis for comparison or judgment

Part 3: God or whatever you take or don’t take as His equivalent


To take the idea of objectivity on its smallest (and most manageable?) scale, I’ll consider decision-making. Something humans are notoriously not so good at.

First, however, a disclaimer/clarification (and a nod to e!): it’s useless to seek The Answer, to expect a single, objective truth in your answer. There probably isn’t one, and it would take forever (literally…). Instead, what is important is to aim for objectivity in the process, which in turn will inject a measure of objectivity into an answer. Which, in turn demands a recognition of the interpersonal context of the decision or answer…come back to this.

There are innumerable examples of biased decision-making and the [potential] consequences. It would be good to avoid these traps.

There are two main dimensions by which to define objectivity. First, is the answer based on facts, or, did the answer come from “within” or “without”? An answer that was driven by an assertion can be said to come from within, while that based on facts comes from without. Second, completeness in the evaluation – that is, were all relevant facts considered? Because it’s no good being “fact-based” if you cherrypick the facts to fit your story. That’s called the confirmation bias in psychology – the tendency to ‘see what you want to see’.

I’m increasingly thankful to a certain teacher who spent time on what he called “BLINDSPOT” analysis. Yes, it’s an acronym. No, I’m not going to spend the space here explaining the whole thing. But it was a valuable discussion to have had. It was basically a repackaging of psychological biases and decision-making risks into a convenient framework of sorts. And paying attention to these things will go a long way towards ensuring objectivity and making for a better quality decision.

And…fail. There has to be more because having logic on your side just isn’t enough these days. The decisions that matter are rarely, so lots of conflicting opinions and different stakeholders are involved, which demands the effective communication of the answer. Decisions always happen in context.

Back to the idea of completeness, the answer arrived at, no matter how objectively found, has to be put in a larger context. In fact, it is one piece of three: there is the message, the speaker, and the listener(s).* The answer or decision is the message, and it is the only part of this that is, strictly speaking, logical. The other two relate to emotions, perceptions, and projected image. And so, the decision-taking process needs to be wrapped inside the process of communication in order to be complete. One has to have their answer, has to make their decision, and that shouldn’t change. The speaker shouldn’t change, save perhaps a little. But the listener will always be changing.

Oh, meta.

*h/t Aristotle

Monday, July 14, 2008

(Intro) On Objectivity; A Response


Part 1: Decision-level objectivity

Part 2: As a basis for comparison or judgment

Part 3: God or whatever you take or don’t take as His equivalent


A friend (e!) raised some questions on the idea of objectivity and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. Been doing some thinking…

Call it an amateur’s taxonomy if you want. But there has to be a basic, bounded understanding for this to work. So, let’s say there are three identifiable kinds of objectivity, though in reality they exist on a continuum (what else could it be), ranging from God to human. Does that work? I mean:

God/Ultimate objectivity ----- Values-clash ----- Decision-level

I hope to treat all three. Perhaps the latter two are most important, as they relate to Life as We Know It; however, the former could easily be the most fun AND the most significant thanks to its far-reaching nature. This last quickly becomes the question, ‘Does God exist’ (“God” or whatever your own particular flavor of ultimate objectivity you may or may not ascribe to). The middle relates to the idea of comparing cultures, and exists perhaps as a counter to cultural relativism. To a point, anyway. Can you compare cultures, make value judgments about others whose experience you do not know? The final point is that of making decisions in relations among people. Here, the question, ‘Is objectivity even possible?’ has no relevance. At this level, I’m talking about a decision-making process.

If the question is, “Is objectivity even possible”, I’ll refer to a previous post in which I find myself sincerely hoping that it is, taking objectivity to signify reason or logic, and this to be ultimately the only path to common understanding, progress, etc fun things. It seems pessimistic to preclude its potential. And, it seems to me that it would at least ‘be a good idea*’ and so I’ll quote a recent read: “Educated, eyes-open optimism pays; pessimism can offer only the empty consolation of being right.” Truly, whether or not objectivity is even possible isn’t an operational question for mere humans – but if we assume it and move positively forward, towards it, maybe we will find ourselves a little closer each time, and a little closer to common understanding as well. And this, I think, would be a good thing.

*h/t Ghandi

Saturday, July 12, 2008

On Fake Issues, or, More Accurately, LIES (damned ones at that)

I noticed a post titled "The pushback against Democrat's attempts to limit online speech continues,"* on Redstate, and it caught my interest.  Dammit, I thought, here we go again.

However, I read the post and noticed that none of the links pointed to actual sources - just more articles similar to the post itself, advocating a position, providing petitions.  Hmmm.  This hyperlink - 'keeping readers informed about this issue while keeping the heat on Congressional leaders - appears to suggest an explanation, but in fact only: (a) makes an absurd claim that is the supposed "logical" progression of the issue at hand, (b) lies about Capuano (the Democratic House Member) making a statement calling the internet a "necessary evil" (he links to this statement from Capuano, which actually refutes these absurd claims), (c) repeats a vague and inflated claim about the intentions of the Democrats.

So, I read Capuano's letter that is the source of this fake controversy, and his response.  (Both available on the same page via his official House website)
In a nutshell, he recommended a LOOSENING of the rules with some recommendations on how to handle this.  Reproduced in their entirety:
  • Official content posted on an external domain must be clearly identified as produced by a House office for official purposes, and meet existing content rules and regulations;
  • To the maximum extent possible, the official content should not be posted on a website or page where it may appear with commercial or political information or any other information not in compliance with the House's content guidelines.
  • Any link from a House website to an external site on which the Member video is hosted must contain an exit notice.
  • CHA, the Office of Web Assistance (OWA), or other designated House entity should maintain a list of external sites that meet whatever requirements are established by CHA.

It's sad that even actual elected officials (e.g. John Boehner, House Minority Leader) are on the bandwagon.  Don't they have ANYTHING BETTER TO DO???  Fuck. 

* Not linking because it's a terrible post and I don't want to push up its rankings.  It's on Redstate, google it if you want...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dear My Sisters,

Skin cancer rates grow among younger women

Statistics show rate of dangerous melanoma up 50 percent since 1980

..."One possible explanation is increases among young women of recreational sun exposure or tanning bed use," Purdue said. "Both of these things have been identified as risk factors. It's possible increases in these two behaviors may be responsible."

Oh McCain. Still trying to woo those Hillary supporters?

Basically, McCain is asked about birth control (Carly Fiorina from his campaign had earlier said 'it is unfair that insurance companies cover viagra and not birth control')

He froze, and then double-froze when the reporter, added that he had voted against birth control coverage.

His response? "I certainly do not want to discuss that issue."

He ended the freeze-up by mumbling again about his voting record, admitting 'he hasn't thought about it', and saying he would get back to her (the reporter). His eventual response was a canned 'I support competition in the free market.'

h/t Bitch PhD

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Movie: Homem do Ano, O

aka The Man of the Year

Picked it randomly and quickly began to fear it was a rough, street-level gunfight flick. Nope. Turns out it's (a) inspirational to grab life by the horns, and (b) complicated

So it's basically about vigilante justice.

Things I liked:
- he was given a pig after the first killing. he names it Bill, after seeing Bill Clinton on tv (the pig was later cooked by his wife. wrong move.)
- the complicatedness - a dentist offers to fix his teeth for free if he will kill the man who raped his daughter. don't actually know that the rape occurred, as the daughter is made out to be a huge slut, and the alleged rapist is black and the dentist freely proclaims his own racism and talks about 'building a better society'. he kills him anyway.
- the not-so-subtle undercurrent of racism behind the killings.

He eventually discovers he is being manipulated (don't know if it goes further than that; does he see the racism, the 'end' to the manipulation?) and he kills his demons.

Things I didn't like:
- somethings seemed reasonless. just there to help move the story along
- the inspirational aspect. the thing ends with the message that you can either let life push you along (and end up a contract killer) or you can grab life by the horns (and kill your tormentors) and LIVE! woo hoo!

Good movie.

SCHIP - Was just thinking

SCHIP - Was just thinking again . . . That it really sucks that 7billion was too much for kids. too much to ask.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Book: Tom Swift and the DNA Disaster

Found a couple Tom Swift books on my roommate's bookshelf...

Nevermind the obvious, sad, and hilarious writing (1950s hero-boy culture..).

As ...backwards as it all is, anti-progressive, women in their place, everyone's white, this author (Victor Appleton) still has a few moments.  Tom accidentally forward-evolves his friend into a being named Malthus (of course..) from the year 21,379 who offers a vision of the future:

Your 'family'?  I barely recognize this word ... In my own time, the air is sweet with the aroma of carbon monoxide and the pleasant tang of flurocarbons ...

Additionally, the world is far overpopulated in the future (Where I come from, a hive cell of this size (small high school locker room) is requried to contain at least 50 people.)....and Malthus dies do to our raw, unprocessed air.

- The giant F U to Thomas Malthus is so overdone it's hilarious.

- Family no longer exists, people are cloned, air is completely polluted yet humans have adapted, indeed adapted amazingly well to the point that the law requires sardine-style packing of people into spaces. 

Appleton thinks we cannot stop the pollution but that it will be ok anyway.

(The second book that is linked up there, "...the Negative Zone," shows potential but ultimately nothing interesting.  Tom finds himself in a world that is a negative copy (both senses of the word) of this one, but Appleton does nothing interesting with the exemplar opposite.)

Friday, July 4, 2008

"Racist asshole dies" is not nice.

Ok. Could just ignore this...but I saw another blogger earlier who laid this out pretty simply. And while passing through the NYT, I decided (did I? or was that just aimless clicking...) to read about it, and I was left with a few thoughts.

3 observations (based on Times article):

1. For some reason, at this moment I'm struck by the ? that it takes to act one way in front of others. I mean, if you're an donkey-headed idiot, that's one thing, but maybe there's something to be learned there anyway.

He was also well known for holding up votes on treaties and appointments to win a point. His willingness to block the business of the Senate or the will of presidents earned him the sobriquet "Senator No" — a label he relished.

2. Are you fucking kidding me? "...the importance of direct mail" = technological change? No. No, seriously, I don't care. The answer is no.

For one thing, Mr. [David] Keene said, Mr. Helms was alert to technological change, especially the importance of direct mail, and readily signed fund-raising letters that helped conservative organizations get started.

3. Here's the intro to the article:

Jesse Helms, 86, Dies; Unyielding Conservative Icon

Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina senator with the courtly manner and mossy drawl who turned his hard-edged conservatism against civil rights, gay rights, foreign aid and modern art, died early Friday. He was 86.

My initial reaction is, what the fuck? These are bad, stupid, or both (things against which to turn "his hard-edged conservatism"). The neutral treating of the whole thing grates. Ralla. Tu rallas, Senor Helms. Ha, how do you like them apples.

Second thought, the guy probably has some family, he obviously impressed enough people to get elected and re-elected many times. He died. People are sad. Let it be. (which of course isn't the same as writing a 3 page article in the NYT).

Final thought, what's wrong with the neutral tone? The reader can find in it what they want. They upfront state, in very nice terms, "Racist asshole dies". If you're into racist assholes, then you'll like this article. Maybe they don't rail against him because (a) it's supposed to be patently obvious that he is (was) a racist asshole, and (b) what's the point? he's dead and: see (a).

Anyhow. Not to steal Bitch PhD's thunder, but as it turns out, Jesse Helms was a racist asshole.

Update: Screw NYT. Wikipedia has some interesting little extra fact(oid)s: the items he so proudly held up were Democratic. NYT paints him as too maverick-ish. (Ok, so that one was probably a little obvious..) Also, turns out when you are an asshole (and racist to boot, which probably, shall we say, colors your bills) no one wants you to pass a bill in Congress. So, he didn't. Mostly he just caused trouble for others.