Archive for March, 2005

05w12:3 Memorial

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 12 number 3 (memorial)

This piece by Franklin Einspruch is one of the most human things I have ever read, personal and touching in ways that made me seek out his permission to post it. The structure of the piece is such that it would be unfair to even quote it here as I usually do, since that would only emphasize a part of the overall whole and be misleading. You’re just going to have to check it out. – Timothy


500 | Franklin Einspruch

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emailed by Timothy on Friday 25 March 2005 @ 5:01 PM

05w12:2 2b or not 2b

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 12 number 2 (2b or not 2b)

Hamlet: Then is doomsday near: but your news is not true.
Let me question more in particular: what have you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?
Guildenstern: Prison, my lord!
Hamlet: Denmark’s a prison.
Rosencrantz: Then is the world one.
Hamlet: A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ the worst.
Rosencrantz: We think not so, my lord.
Hamlet: Why, then, ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.
Rosentcrantz: Why then, your ambition makes it one; ’tis too narrow for your mind.
Hamlet: O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.
Guildenstern: Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
Hamlet: A dream itself is but a shadow.
Rosencrantz: Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.


Schools of Thought, The Madness of Consensus | Carra Leah Hood
“The world in 2005 bears little or no resemblance to the world that Shakespeare inhabited; however, this lesson still holds true. Today, the free exchange of intellectual ideas?thought to be the primary activity, for instance, of professors and students on college and university campuses’ is constrained in ways similar to those on display in Act 2 Scene II. Those who have less authority might pursue lines of inquiry, both in classrooms and in scholarship, that follow up on, apply, or restate authoritative positions. They are at less risk for receiving a low grade, for being rejected or criticised by their colleagues, and for losing their jobs if they do so. This type of teaching and learning, writing and research creates a sort of consensus, sometimes referred to as schools of thought, that at their best challenge and at their worst prohibit imagination. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern could not imagine uttering the words, “Denmark is a prison.” Their language and their structures of imagination are restricted by their economic and their social roles and, because of both, the expectations of their audience. In 2005, those in all social positions can imagine speaking such a critique; however, some might elect not to, self-censoring solely for the purpose of achieving one personal goal or another – a grade, professional recognition, or promotion.”

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emailed by Timothy on Friday 25 March 2005 @ 4:45 PM

05w12:1 The Bullshit Roundup

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 12 number 1 (the bullshit roundup)

Speaking in an interview with Now Magazine in Dec 1997, John R Saul summed up our state of discourse by referring to that time’s teacher’s strikes:

“It wouldn’t really have taken all that much effort for the teachers’ unions to say, ‘The government says it wants better education — and it’s going to cut $700 million and it’s going to fire teachers. If you want better education, if you want smaller class sizes, that won’t work.’ It’s two sentences! I never heard a union leader say that. The unions talked in corporatist terms, as if they were in a private negotiation with the government.”

(BTW, JRS has a new book coming out in May on the demise of the globalization ideology. I’m pretty excited).

One of the lessons I learned at artschool besides what I was supposed to learn, was how much more effective signage was when it was written as if addressing a human being. The corporate language everywhere drives me nuts, and I tend to see it as patinaed with a glossy layer of bull. Because, as Frankfurt says:

Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic are more excessive than his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled – whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others – to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant.

Which brings up today’s GR – the bullshit roundup. As you may already be aware, Princeton philosophy prof Harry Frankfurt has published a book called ‘On Bullshit’, and there has been some stuff about it on the net. – Timothy

On Bullshit | Harry Frankfurt
“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, or attracted much sustained inquiry. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.”

Harry Frankfurt on The Daily Show | The Daily Show
NOTE: link to Quicktime Video 3.4MB 5’46

Harry Frankfurt Interviews | Princeton University Press
NOTE: Video interviews available in different formats and streams

Defining Bullshit | Timothy Noah
“Enter Harry G. Frankfurt. In the fall 1986 issue of Raritan, Frankfurt, a retired professor of philosophy at Princeton, took a whack at it in an essay titled ‘On Bullshit.’ Frankfurt reprinted the essay two years later in his book The Importance of What We Care About: Philosophical Essays. Last month he republished it a second time as a very small book. Frankfurt’s conclusion, which I caught up with in its latest repackaging, is that bullshit is defined not so much by the end product as by the process by which it is created.”

Towards a Marxist Hermeneutics of Total Bullshit | Scott Martens
“I intend to start by sharing what I really think here, then proceding to shed some light on this situation through the application of bovinocoprotics. (From the Latin bovinae – cow, and the Greek κοπρος – feces.) Then, I need to actually start writing. […] we are confronted with the the problem Frankfurt poses at the beginning of his essay: One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. If the Enlightenment has been a war on bullshit, it seems that the bullshit is winning. Orwell, lacking Frankfurt’s work to draw on, actually foreshadows him in 1984: ‘All rulers in all ages have tried to impose a false view of the world upon their followers, but they could not afford to encourage any illusion that tended to impair military efficiency. So long as defeat meant the loss of independence, or some other result generally held to be undesirable, the precautions against defeat had to be serious. Physical facts could not be ignored. In philosophy, or religion, or ethics, or politics, two and two might make five, but when one was designing a gun or an aeroplane they had to make four. Inefficient nations were always conquered sooner or later, and the struggle for efficiency was inimical to illusions.’ Orwell’s Oceania is not the land of the Big Lie – for the whole point of doublethink is to not lie – but the land of bullshit: A complete disregard for the truth about things and the defense of the processes that sustain that disregard.”
Thanks to Amish Morrell for letting me know about this

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emailed by Timothy on Wednesday 23 March 2005 @ 5:18 PM

05w11:6 Postart

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 11 number 6 (postart)


At a crossroads: Peter Plagens on the ‘postartist’ | Peter Plagens
“It’s no surprise that ‘postmodern artists are caricatures of artists,’ Kuspit goes on to say. ‘Disillusioned about art, they still have illusions about themselves–about what art can do for them (not what they can do for art), namely, make them rich and famous, or at least newsworthy if not exactly noteworthy.’ And out of his discontent, Kuspit comes up with an idea encapsulated in a term that, for me, is the best gloss on the whole current situation: the ‘postartist.’ The majority of art promulgated by serious galleries and contemporary museums in major cities no longer has much to do with aesthetics. Contemporary art has abandoned its function as the visual wing of the house of poetry and morphed into a fecklessly ‘transgressive’ subdivision of the entertainment industry. It’s now commercial pop culture writ esoteric, whiny and small. What Hughes long ago labeled ‘the shock of the new’ quickly became ‘the academy of the new’ (literally, in MFA programs), which has in turn updated itself into ‘the industry of the new.’ At the same time, artists have cunningly made themselves critic-proof.”

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emailed by Timothy on Sunday 20 March 2005 @ 12:42 AM

06w11:5 More in the World of Printers

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 11 number 5 (More in the world of printers)


Inkjet Printers Offer Biology Breakthrough | Emily C Kumler,aid,117318,00.asp
“If you think injecting ink into a printer cartridge might damage your printer, try filling it with animal cells. That’s what they’re doing at Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina, these days. In the name of science, researchers have developed a way to print sheets of solid animal tissue by filling Hewlett-Packard and Canon inkjet cartridges with animal cells, or ‘bio-ink.'”

When the Sous-Chef Is an Inkjet | David Bernstein
“But the sushi made by Mr. Cantu, the 28-year-old executive chef at Moto in Chicago, often contains no fish. It is prepared on a Canon i560 inkjet printer rather than a cutting board. He prints images of maki on pieces of edible paper made of soybeans and cornstarch, using organic, food-based inks of his own concoction. He then flavors the back of the paper, which is ordinarily used to put images onto birthday cakes, with powdered soy and seaweed seasonings.”NOTE: New York Times article, a followup to the inkjet-food article, courtesy of Chris Hand

New machines could turn homes into small factories | University of Bath
“Research by engineers at the University of Bath could transform the manufacture of almost all everyday household objects by allowing people to produce them in their own homes at the cost of a few pounds. Dr Adrian Bowyer in front of a rapid prototype machine. The new system is based upon rapid prototype machines, which are now used to produce plastic components for industry such as vehicle parts. The method they use, in which plastic is laid down in designs produced in 3D on computers, could be adapted to make many household items.”NOTE: In addition to the story, there is a link to an audio file on this page

Long links made short by using TinyURL (
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emailed by Timothy on Friday 18 March 2005 @ 4:16 PM

Call for Writers and Friends

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Call for writers and friends

Dear people,

Living in Canada is like being a diffused chemical measured in parts per million. We aren’t concentrated like in the United States. There are only 32 million of us, which is about the same number of Americans without health insurance and apparently, the exact number of Americans with blogs.

The fact that there aren’t so many of us means that our numbers, when we divvy ourselves up into professions, are relatively small. At the same time, the net has come along which makes finding information and communicating with anyone on the planet easier than it has ever been. Canada is well known to be a regional country, and that’s great. But lately I’ve been wondering what the hell is going on in Saskatoon? Who are the artists there? What kind of work is popular? There are lots of reasons why I don’t know this, but seems to me it can’t be that hard to find out. I’ll just find someone in Saskatoon that can write me a letter. In turn, I’d like to share that letter with you.

I’d like to set up a ‘letters from’ section on Something like or, etc etc. I’d like to post there letters from cities across Canada, but whatever, if you’re reading this in Lynn Lake Manitoba, I’d love to hear from you too. I’d expect a letter a month, maybe two if you feel the need … but no blog like thing requiring an everyday commitment.

And why do I want to do this? Because for all their intentions, the magazines suck when they only come out every 4 months. We can’t have a dialog with a 4 month delay. There’s no good reason anymore why I – and in turn, anyone who checks out the website – should not know about your town’s art stars. I had to move to Toronto before I’d ever heard of Ian Carr Harris, and I only learned about Doris McCarthy a couple of weeks ago. It’s not so much that I’m retarded as it is that we aren’t communicating with one another. And because this is about sharing information, real communication, there’s no money involved, although I’d like think one day I’d be able to pay people.

So, if you’re interested, send me an email.

Yours truly,

Timothy Comeau

emailed by Timothy on Friday 18 March 2005 @ 3:51 PM

05w11:4 Yum

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 11 number 4 (yum)


Taste for meat made humans early weaners | Anna Gosline
“A taste for meat prompted early humans to wean their children at a young age. The idea explains why we now wean our infants years earlier than other great apes. […] the nutritional benefit of eating meat at a younger age would have helped children’s brains to grow and develop more quickly. Human brains grow three times quicker than those of chimpanzees.”

Human ‘dental chaos’ linked to evolution of cooking | John Pickrell
“Crooked and disordered teeth may be the result of people having evolved to eat relatively mushy cooked food, suggests new research. The disarray may have developed because evolutionary pressures affecting the size and shape of both the front teeth and jaw conflict with those influencing the back teeth. This means that there is often not enough space in the human jaw to accommodate all our teeth.”

Forget takeout, eat a print-out | Celeste Biever
“It is not quite the stuff of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but the fare coming out of Homaru Cantu’s kitchen is just as bizarre. In Roald Dahl’s famous children’s book, chewing gum is made to taste like a three-course meal. Cantu, a cordon-bleu chef, has modified an ink-jet printer to create dishes made of edible paper that can taste like anything from birthday cake to sushi. ‘You can make an ink-jet printer do just about anything,’ says Cantu, who is head chef at the Moto restaurant in Chicago, US, and a keen advocate of the high-tech kitchen. The printer’s cartridges are loaded with fruit and vegetable concoctions instead of ink, and the paper tray contains edible sheets of soybean and potato starch. Cantu then prints out tasty versions of images he has downloaded from the web.”

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emailed by Timothy on Wednesday 16 March 2005 @ 8:47 PM

05w11:3 Les Langues

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 11 number 3 (les langues)


Speaking of tongues | Martin Jacques,6121,1435748,00.html
“From his rich picture of why major languages have waxed and waned, it is clear that there is no single model: on the contrary, while Ostler does his best to categorise and conceptualise, there are in fact almost as many models as there are languages. For all the hubris about the rise of English and how it will rule the world’s tongues for ever, it is sobering to reflect on why languages that in their day seemed utterly irresistible in their dominance and prestige, spoken across large regions of the world for thousands of years, were eventually eclipsed.”

Manifesto | Thierry Chervel
“No one in the French media reads the German papers thoroughly, and no scouts are keeping track of cultural trends in Germany. […] Is there a Europe beyond the milk quotas? If so, then only in the form of an angel passing, creating a pause in the conversation, a gap in communication. […] When Jürgen Habermas launched his ‘Core Europe’ initiative, no one joined the debate. Who outside the Netherlands had heard of Theo van Gogh before he was murdered? And when everybody in Paris was celebrating the 60th anniversary of the city’s liberation in August last year, no one was aware of what was happening in Warsaw at the same time. While a few streets in Paris were being named after members of the communist resistance, whose valour is indisputable, Warsaw was fixated on the enduring memory of Stalin’s icy smile as he watched Hitler bomb the Polish resistance into the ground. The end of liberation. The ignorance is greatest in large Western European countries where public debate is little more than self-contented thumb twiddling. Talk is of national issues – political leaders, late night comedy stars and football scandals. The intellectuals might as well be sitting in the cinema, all staring spellbound in the same direction, ignoring their neighbours and gasping in outrage at the latest evil deed of bad boy Bush. […] Is it really the fault of Bill Gates or Steven Spielberg that the French are learning less German, and the Germans less French?”

Lowbrow Lit | Stephen Osborne
“To the generation of writers and publishers who came of age during the counterculture; that is, to me and my friends in the Marble Arch beer parlour, these writers and their works were as goofy as Sergeant Preston of the Royal Mounted. We were readers of Howl and On the Road, by Ginsberg and Kerouac, and La Nausee, by Sartre. Our professors had been British academics who detested Canadian writing, and Americans brought in to replace them who had never heard of Canadian writing; during that period of the sixties and seventies a caste system came into Canadian intellectual life as the expanding universities grew to become the primary site of literary criticism and ‘creative’ writing, with the result that the journalists, the homemade poets, the homegrown novelists who had presumed to rough out a literature, were pushed into the echelons of the lowbrow, the overlooked, the un-Literary (which became also the world of Stan Rogers, whose profoundly un-hip music and lyrics address the same lowbrow mythos, and whose continuing exclusion from the Canadian Music Hall of Fame is another example of the caste system at work).”

Crime fighters brought to book | Jo Tuckman,6109,1432483,00.html
“Police in a sprawling working-class suburb on the edge of the Mexican capital are to fight crime with a new weapon: books. The leftwing mayor of Nezahualcoyotl, Luis Sanchez, has ordered all 1,100 members of the municipal police to read at least one book a month or forfeit their chance of promotion. ‘We believe reading will improve their vocabulary and their writing skills, help them express themselves, order their ideas and communicate with the public,’ Mr Sanchez said. ‘Reading will make them better police officers and better people.'”

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emailed by Timothy on Wednesday 16 March 2005 @ 12:08 AM

05w11:2 More on the Canada Council

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 11 number 2 (More on the Canada Council)

This article by Soloman Fagan came to my attention last night, dealing with the Canada Council controversy, and it made me angrier than I’ve been since this whole thing started last November. I wrote a little rant, which I posted on /commentary, since I figured that none of the readers on the list in the U.S. and elsewhere shouldn’t need to read about it in this space.

But for those readers than, this is what it’s about:

The Canada Council is like the United States’ N.E.A. In my circle, I hear that artists outside of Canada are jealous that we get all these grants, but that’s not true. The Canada Council only supports 8% of those that apply, which means that there are rumours of favouritism and of cliques, and it creates the myth of prestige, so that 3 years after you graduate from artschool, you too can submit your name into this lottery for $3000. If the jury thinks your work is ‘great’, you get your taxable cheque and get to inspire envy and jealousy amongst your peers. Now, the Canada Council wants to change all this. They want to start giving out greater funds to the more established cliques, people who have somehow already been able to manage without their support. Artists who have benefited either from past funding or believe in the prestige-factor, are complaining and writing petitions, seemingly wanting to maintain the system as it is, while fearing future vindictiveness from the Council for opposing its suggested course of action.

Oh Canada!

– Timothy

Art heist | Soloman Fagan
“Remember, the Council’s funding has not increased over the years to keep up with inflation ? but how does cutting developing artists’ funding remedy this? One board member told me ‘sustainability’ was the buzzword in discussions. But the two grants that individual artists can receive in four years could hardly sustain anyone at the old rates, let alone the proposed chopped ones. […] According to Balkan, the Council wants to focus on ‘breakthrough’ artists like Janet Cardiff. While I agree that Cardiff is doing excellent work and deserves support, in the context of the proposed changes her selection raises some disturbing questions. Will we let an international system of biennales determine Canadian cultural value rather than Canadians themselves? Is an artistic criterion being established that equates technological progress with cultural value? […] Apparently, one of the rationales for the drastic reallocation of funding to ‘senior’ artists is the high cost of producing pieces like Cardiff’s. This is art on the scale promoted by the international system in which countries send their representatives for collective mega-exhibitions. Here, full-room ‘installations’ of live nude female models or live tropical butterflies, à la Vanessa Beecroft, Matthew Barney or Damien Hirst, can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce. How can Canadian artists, with a current meagre $34,000 in the senior category, ‘compete’ with those who can mount works of such magnitude? While gigantism and expensive technologies are all the rage at large exhibits, it’s unclear how promoting Canada as a ‘global competitor’ in the culture wars will benefit anyone here at home. Perhaps the idea is to garner established artists a higher profile and thereby raise the status of the discipline nationwide, hoping this will ‘trickle down’ to the rest of us. But this is hypothetical. It’s the young and less privileged artists who will suffer the financial brunt of the experiment.”

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emailed by Timothy on Monday 14 March 2005 @ 2:04 PM

05w11:1 Genius?

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 11 number 1 (genius?)


A genius explains | Richard Johnson,,1409903,00.html
“Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant. He can perform mind-boggling mathematical calculations at breakneck speeds. But unlike other savants, who can perform similar feats, Tammet can describe how he does it. He speaks seven languages and is even devising his own language. Now scientists are asking whether his exceptional abilities are the key to unlock the secrets of autism.”

Idealist and realist; Albert Einstein’s free spirit | Yehuda Elkana
“Finally, it is an important legacy of Einstein to take popular science seriously, and to encourage it being written by excellent writers who know science and reflect upon it. It is well-known that Einstein ascribed his early awareness of problems, and his overview of them, to having read at an early stage the series of popular science books by Aaron Bernstein. These books left a deeper mark on him than is usually acknowledged. We talk much nowadays of the ‘public understanding of science’: often it is presumed by working scientists – even by some of the best of them – that the issue is a popular explanation of technically difficult points like how a nuclear reactor works, or what in technical terms constitutes cloning. But they are wrong: what the public needs is an argument about problem-choices, the place and importance of chosen problems in the context of social needs but also of the map of the state of science, risks and chances.”

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emailed by Timothy on Monday 14 March 2005 @ 1:17 PM