Posts Tagged “Anti-Theory”

07w42:5 Richard Rorty Selections

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I found these initially in the compilation Philosophy and Social Hope (1999) and was very happy to find them both online in order to share. – Timothy

The Humanistic Intellectual: Eleven Theses | Richard Rorty (1989)
“If one asks what good these people do, what social function they perform, neither ‘teaching’ nor ‘research’ is a very good answer. Their idea of teaching—or at least of the sort of teaching they hope to do—is not exactly the communication of knowledge, but more like stirring the kids up. When they apply for a leave or a grant, they may have to fill out forms about the aims and methods of their so-called research projects, but all they really want to do is read a lot more books in the hope of becoming a different sort of person. So the real social function of the humanistic intellectuals is to instill doubts in the students about the students’ own self-images, and about the society to which they belong. These people are the teachers who help insure that the moral consciousness of each new generation is slightly different from that of the previous generation. […] Philosophers of education, well-intended committees, and governmental agencies have attempted to understand, define, and manage the humanities. The point, however, is to keep the humanities changing fast enough so that they remain indefinable and unmanageable. All we need to keep them changing that fast is good old-fashioned academic freedom. Given freedom to shrug off the heresy-hunters and their cries of “politicization!,” as well as freedom for each new batch of assistant professors to despise and repudiate the departmental Old Guard to whom they owe their jobs, the humanities will continue to be in good shape. If you don’t like the ideological weather in the local English department these days, wait a generation. Watch what happens to the Nietzscheanized left when it tries to replace itself, along about the year 2010. I’m willing to bet that the brightest new Ph.D.’s in English that year will be people who never want to hear the terms ‘binary opposition’ or ‘hegemonic discourse’ again as long as they live.” [emp mine]

Fraternity Reigns | Richard Rorty (1996)
“Our long, hesitant, painful recovery, over the last five decades, from the breakdown of democratic institutions during the Dark Years (2014-2044) has changed our political vocabulary, as well as our sense of the relation between the moral order and the economic order. Just as 20th-century Americans had trouble imagining how their pre-Civil War ancestors could have stomached slavery, so we at the end of the 21st century have trouble imagining how our great-grandparents could have legally permitted a C.E.O. to get 20 times more than her lowest-paid employees. We cannot understand how Americans a hundred years ago could have tolerated the horrific contrast between a childhood spent in the suburbs and one spent in the ghettos. Such inequalities seem to us evident moral abominations, but the vast majority of our ancestors took them to be regrettable necessities. […] H ere, in the late 21st century, as talk of fraternity and unselfishness has replaced talk of rights, American political discourse has come to be dominated by quotations from Scripture and literature, rather than from political theorists or social scientists. Fraternity, like friendship, was not a concept that either philosophers or lawyers knew how to handle.”[emp mine]
// In the above named book, this was reprinted as ‘Looking Backwards from the Year 2096’.

07w42:1 Conceptual Terrorism

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Conceptual Terrorism
Conceptual Terrorists Encase Sears Tower In Jell-O | The Onion
“Tentative speculation that the dessert enclosure was in fact an act of terrorism was quickly confirmed after a group known only as the Prophet’s Collective took credit for the attack in a three-hour-long video that surfaced on the Internet. ‘Your outdated ideas of what terrorism is have been challenged,’ an unidentified, disembodied voice announces following the video’s first 45 minutes of random imagery set to minimalist techno music. ‘It is not your simple bourgeois notion of destructive explosions and weaponized biochemical agents. True terror lies in the futility of human existence.’ According to a 2007 CIA executive summary, the terrorists responsible for masterminding the attack are likely hiding somewhere in Berlin’s vast labyrinth of cafés. […] ‘I’m no expert, but I know terrorism when I see it,’ said Kathy Atwood, a Hyde Park mother of four. ‘Where is the devastating loss of life and massive destruction of infrastructure? This doesn’t move me to run for my life at all.’ She added: ‘Real terrorism takes years of training and meticulous planning. My 6-year-old kid can make Jell-O.’

06w28:1 Misc

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Here are links collected over the past couple of months. Long time subscribers remember a time when Goodreads was more frequent, and more topic oriented, but I have to say I’ve come to like the format of miscellaneous links more, in addition, I like taking my time to send them out. The net is so fickle and has become such a wonderful place for evaporated memory, it seems much more sane to sit on things for a bit and let the hype pass before sending the link ’round one more time again.

If you disagree with me and would like more frequent emails, let me know. At the beginning, Goodreads functioned as a extension of my conversations, but over the past year (!) my conversations have dried up and this project has lost that perspective. Which is round-a-bout way of saying any input is welcome since I’m not getting it the old fashioned way any more.

For those of you whose submissions are finally being included: apologies. But see above.

Call for Wikipedia Content | Ever notice how Canadian art (and contemporary art in general) is underrepresented on Wikipedia? Consider this a call to do something about it. TVO broadcast Artist on Fire: The Work of Joyce Weiland on Masterworks last week and I tried to look her up on Wikipedia and found nothing, which I thought embarrassing and shameful. I know there are lots of people in the know on this list who could be putting their knowledge to good use by contributing to Wikipedia, so lets improve their art entries. Wikipedia used to let anyone create pages but nowadays you have to register. (If you can’t be bothered to register, send me what you’d like to see there and I’ll post it for you, since I’m registered. But I hope you’re not that lazy.) – Timothy

Some submissions

Submitted by Joanne Todd in April (related to Easter)

Activist Art and the Counter-Publich Sphere | Gregory Sholette
Sumbitted by Amish Morell PDF 514K

Andy Kaufman Lives
“He (Andy Kaufman) wanted to collaborate on something really fantastic and enormous, but we could never figure out what it would be. He was especially fascinated with how I had gotten people to believe I was dead. He’d say, ‘How can I do that? I want to do that.'” -Alan Abel the world’s greatest hoaxer
“If I do go ahead with my plan, I will do so by pretending to have cancer”–Andy Kaufman (speaking to Mimi Lambert) | (Related:Alan Abel Esquire story)
Submitted by Timothy P. Barrus
// This is pretty fucked up actually. I hope people have bought t-shirts!

Interview with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez with Democracy Now!
Sumbitted by Ben Skinner late last September

End Subs; Am I forgeting one? Send me a nasty email and I’ll include it next time.

Aristophanes’ Birds

Cancer surgery reveals 49-year-old ‘fossil’ fetus | Taiwan News

Confronting the New Misanthropy | Frank Furedi

Darren O’Donnell’s Social Acupuncture | RM Vaughan

Email | Robert Fulford
“In every generation people mourn the death of letter writing (our literary culture enjoys nothing more than signing the death certificate of an art form). Decades ago, reviewers discussing collections of letters felt they had to say that there would be few such books in the future because the hurry of modern life had killed the habit. But as those reviews were appearing, people were still busy writing letters. In the years that followed, good collections kept appearing — like the correspondence of publisher Jack McClelland last year. Letter writing didn’t die, it just became a minority taste. Now it’s regained much of its popularity. In 20 or 30 years, people will be reading books of e-mails (whether they’ll read them in the form of paper books is another question). Incidentally, anyone seeking that kind of immortality should be warned to keep hard copies of their letters on paper; disc memory is unstable and unreliable, and may even be unreadable on the equipment of the future.”Article date: January 2000

Man surfs the Net to death | China Daily

‘Skeleton woman’ dead in front of TV for years | Telegraph UK

Study: Using big words needlessly makes you seem stupider | Clive Thompson

PM canes ‘rubbish’ postmodern teaching | Steve Lewis and Imre Salusinszky
“Associate Professor Morgan said the English literature syllabus in Western Australia was being replaced by a course called “Texts, traditions and cultures”, which had led to a large degree of dissatisfaction and low morale among teachers. “Literary theory covers a broad range of cultural and social theory from Marxism to post-structuralism, feminism and queer theory,” he said. “It’s very obscure. It encourages students to use buzzwords and jargon to cover up that they have no idea what they’re talking about. “Teachers are disappointed they are not teaching literature any more. They feel the subject has been hijacked by those who want to teach about race, gender and Marxism, rather than about literature.”

Learning to Savor a Full Life, Love Life Included | Jane Gross

Bug Chasers: The men who long to be HIV+ | Gregory A. Freeman
(Article Date: January 2003 | One of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read, and the last paragraph is my new measure of depravity.)

Godwin’s Law | Wikipedia
“‘Godwin’s Law (also Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies) is, in Internet culture, an adage originated in 1990 by Mike Godwin that states: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.'”

(An earlier edit of this article had this: ‘This law does not pertain to any discussion of U.S. President George W. Bush and his Cabinet, when that discussion involves the manipulation of the public through fear mongering.‘ Of course, it was gone after about an hour. – Timothy)

Great Photographers on the Internet | Mike Johnston

What if some the 20th Century’s best photographers had posted their images on online forums?

Guinness: World’s Largest Photo | AP,71161-0.html?tw=rss.index
(Convert a former airplane hangar into a camera obscura. Related self-promotion here)

The North Korean Subset

The Photos link was found some weeks ago, the other two appeared in response to the July 4 Missle Test. Rockets’ red glare eh? One newsman discussing the ‘type-o-dong’ failure on CNN the next day, ‘It is complex, it is rocket science … ‘A trip to North Korea – Photos | Artemii Lebedev
As much as I hate Toronto’s concrete ugliness, at least I’m not in Pyongyang. The link above is to the orginal Russian, this link has the translated captions.

Bob Woodward goes to NK | Nightline
The link is to video from ABC’s Nightline broadcast on 5 July 06 (link to audio mp3 podcast)

Kim’s Catastrophe | Fred Kaplan

Hiding in Plain Sight, Google Seeks More Power | John Markoff and Saul Hansell
The future home of Wintermute?

Lioness in zoo kills man who invoked God | Reuters
“A man shouting that God would keep him safe was mauled to death by a lioness in Kiev zoo after he crept into the animal’s enclosure, a zoo official said on Monday.”

Born at 6am on 06/06/06, his mum was induced for 6 days, he weighs 6lbs 6oz and he’s called … Damien | Richard Smith

Friendship Puzzle
This is totally gay

The in-betweeners | Philip Marchand
“We speak constantly about the baby boomers and the ‘Greatest Generation,’ the veterans of D-Day, but we rarely refer to the generation born in-between.It was precisely this generation, however, that transformed our culture. From this demographic cohort came the men and women who became the icons of the 1960s and who have had no equivalent successors. They cast very long shadows.”

Mass Natural | Michael Pollan
Wal-Mart’s beginning to sell organic food. A good thing, no?

Ink in their veins | Bill Taylor
At 81, Bob Gladding still runs the presses at the family-owned Gazette in never-dull Tavistock

Losing Their Edge? | Scott Jaschik
“In ‘Are Elite Universities Losing Their Competitive Edge?,’ the scholars examine evidence that the Internet ó by allowing professors to work with ease with scholars across the country and not just across the quad ó is leading to a spreading of academic talent at many more institutions than has been the case in the past.

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emailed by Timothy on Wednesday 12 July 2006 @ 2:08 PM

06w16:2 Ellen Dissanayake

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The Artistic Animal | Caleb Crain
“But is art a well-defined category for biological study? In its freedom from social rules, art resembles play, while in its emphasis on display and embellishment, it resembles ritual. Art, play, and ritual benefit different individuals in different ways, however. Art enhances an artist’s prestige, play is linked to learning in juveniles, and ritual achieves a large number of social aims, from mourning to coronation. To focus her inquiry, Dissanayake has picked out a common element: During all three activities, humans make something special. That is, they distinguish an object or action from the ordinary. ‘What’s interesting about humans,’ Dissanayake says, ‘is that they gild the lily. They do more than is necessary.’ ‘Making special,’ rather than ‘art,’ is the behavior Dissanayake studies.”

The Core of Art: Making Special | Ellen Dissanayake
“Previously, the sorts of objects that in the post-eighteenth century West came to be called art—paintings, sculptures, ceramics, music, dance, poetry, and so forth—were made to embody or to reinforce religious or civic values, and rarely, if ever, for purely aesthetic purposes. Paintings and sculptures served as portraits, illustrations, interior or exterior decoration; ceramics were vessels for use; music and dance were part of a ceremonial or special social occasion; poetry was storytelling or praise or oratory to sway an audience. Even when beauty, skill, or ostentation were important qualities of an object, they did not exist ‘for their own sake,’ but as an enhancement of the object’s ostensible if not actual use. This enhancement would be called beautification or adornment, not art. The word art as used before the late eighteenth century meant what we would today call ‘craft’ or ‘skill’ or ‘well-madeness,’ and could characterize any object or activity made or performed by human (rather than natural or divine) agency—for example, the art of medicine, of retailing, of holiday dining. It may be a surprise to realize how peculiar our modern Western notion of art really is—how it is dependent on and intertwined with ideas of commerce, commodity, ownership, history, progress, specialization, and individuality—and to recognize the truth that only a few societies have thought of it even remotely as we do.” NOTE: tinyurl links to 249K PDF, 26 pages

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emailed by Timothy on Tuesday 18 April 2006 @ 10:07 PM

06w12:1 Fred Ross on Academic Art

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Introit: Because many on this list are artists, this one needs a bit of introduction. Which is also to prove how valid the points raised in this article are. I found it in the free copy of The Epoch Times being handed out in front of the train station yesterday, and it’s easily one of the most entertaining and pointed things I’ve read on art in a long time. Personally, I still think Bougereau is lame, Ross’ fundamental question is: have I merely been taught to think so?


ARC Chairman Speaks His Mind | Fred Ross
“These [painting] traditions, just when they were at their absolute zenith, at a peak of achievement, seemingly unbeatable and unstoppable, hit the twentieth century at full stride, and then … fell off a cliff, and smashed to pieces on the rocks below. Since World War I the contemporary visual arts as represented in Museum exhibitions, University Art Departments, and journalistic art criticism became little more than juvenile, repetitive exercises at proving to the former adult world that they could do whatever they damn well wanted … sadly devolving ever downwards into a distorted, contrived and contorted notion of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression? Ironically, this so-called ‘freedom’ as embodied in Modernism, rather than a form of ‘expression’ in truth became a form of ‘suppression’ and ‘oppression.’ Modernism as we know it, ultimately became the most oppressive and restrictive system of thought in all of art history. […] During most of the 20th Century, the type of propaganda that has been hurled at academic artists is so insidious that people have been literally trained to discredit, out-of-hand, any work containing well-crafted figures or elements, or any other evidence of technical mastery. […]That is not to say that all academic art is great, or above criticism—certainly, it is not. It would be no less fallacious to issue blanket praise to an entire category than to condemn it. Academic painting ranges from brilliantly conceived and deeply inspired, to trite and silly, depending on the subject and the artist. That being said, I find even the worst of it more meaningful than art based on the ridiculous notion that it is somehow important to prove the canvas is flat, and/or that one needs no skill or technique to be an artist—views generally embraced by those who condemn the entire category of academic art.”Related: ARC (Art Renewal Center)

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emailed by Timothy on Friday 31 March 2006 @ 1:00 PM

06w05:2 An Open and Reasonable Soceity?

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2006 week 5 number 2 (an open and reasonable society?)

In the remarkable chapter Images of Immortality found within John Ralston Saul’s 1992 bookVoltaire’s Bastards he says this while tracing the development of artist heroes:

When Romanticism began to flourish in the late 18th Century and the ego began to grow until it dominated public life, people abruptly found Raphael far too modest a fellow to have been the father of the perfect image. So they tended to fall into line with the description of the technical breakthroughs which had been provided by Vasari in his Lives of the Painters, written shortly after the actual events. In other words, they transferred the credit to an irresponsible, antisocial individualist, Michelangelo – a veritable caricature of the artist in the 20th Century. If we were ever able to create a reasonable, open society, Leonardo would no doubt cease appearing to us as an overwhelming, almost forbidding, giant and the credit would be switched to him.

Since that time, Marcel Duchamp (analytical, reasonable) has overtaken Picasso (irresponsible, antisocial individualist that he was) as the greatest artist of the 20th Century, and Leonardo has inspired one of the most read books in the history of the world. Although there is a ton of political evidence to the contrary, perhaps we are witnessing the transition toward a reasonable open society after all? Slowly the balance is shifting so that the President of the United States says ‘Americans are addicted to oil’ and these five words become a headline (as it did yesterday on the Drudgereport), representing as they do a significant shift toward reality from a man famously blinded by ideology.

This Leonardo angle comes by way of the Martin Kemp interview link herein, in which he also complains about art writing. After they talk about his Leonardo book, they get to talking about contemporary art, and Kemp says the following:

AFH: What do you think of all the writing generated by the art world?

MK: There is a lot of writing generated that is redundant. When I was a graduate student, I used to review exhibitions and I found that sitting on the train heading in to London to see the show, I would be writing the review before I arrived. At one point when I was working in Glasgow, I did a review for the Guardian of a nonexistent exhibition, which consisted of all the popular words and apparatus. It was a critical account that stood independently and I then dropped in a spurious artist in to the framework. You see a lot of writing like that allows the machinery to go on by just dropping a name into the mix along the way.

AFH: Do you think this kind of writing is destructive to art or artists?

MK: One thing that has happened very dramatically is that artists in the educational system have to produce more written work as part of their degrees. That has had an effect on artists and artistic production. I think many artists are automatically thinking about how the work will be written about when they are making it. It is not necessarily that they plan, but they can’t stop doing it. That hyper-sensitivity to the written word and what artists need to say about their own work, knowing they will be interviewed, often goes alongside a very self-consciousness about how work will look in reproduction, how it will be discussed, how artists need to justify their own work in the media. The issue is how to corral the artists and the critics into one arena that represents the work well.

This leads me to post the Jerry Saltz article from the end of December, wherein he talks about being a critic. Personally my own experience with writing criticism slanted me toward thinking it wasn’t worth it. Better to let people make up their own minds about things. There’s a difference between criticism and publicity afterall, and no artist wants real criticism. Such genuine critique comes from someone like John Carey, where in the last link this is said about the art world: “Approved high art, Carey insists again and again, is too often simply a marker of class, education and wealth. ‘It assures you of your specialness. It inscribes you in the book of life, from which the nameless masses are excluded.’ Yet ‘the characteristics of popular or mass art that seem most objectionable to its high-art critics — violence, sensationalism, escapism, an obsession with romantic love — minister to human needs inherited from our remote ancestors over hundreds of thousands of years.'” It seems to me that in an increasingly open and reasonable society, professional artists would be derided for their unreasonable snobbish attitudes. But that’s just me.

Finally, a link to a Daily Show clip on Crooks and Liars. They offer two video feeds, one Windows and the other a Quicktime, but the quicktime one doesn’t work as a type this (maybe later?). The clip goes over the James Frey debacle, pointing out that while political lying is pooh-poohed, Oprah’s humiliation is that she ‘forced Americans to read, when they really didn’t have to’.

– Timothy

Universal Leonardo | Ana Finel Honigman
The interview with Martin Kemp. But check out the website mentioned there:
“‘A project aimed at deepening our understanding of Leonardo da Vinci through a series of international exhibitions, scientific research and educational resources. Explore the web site for details of the exhibitions and to discover Leonardo’s fascinating thought and work in the realms of art, science and technology.’ “

Seeing out loud | Jerry Saltz

What Good are the Arts? | Michael Dirda

The Daily Show: Oprah vs News | Crooks and Liars
“Why does James Frey get tougher treatment than our government? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because he misled us into a book we had no business getting into. So thank you Oprah for giving us a glimpse into political accountability and punishing the one unforgivable sin our society. Forcing Americans to read … when they really didn’t have to.”

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emailed by Timothy on Wednesday 01 February 2006 @ 2:28 PM

05w51:1 Everything, or Throwing the Backlog on the Winter's Fire, or Xmastravaganza

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 51 number 1 (everything, or throwing the backlog on the winter’s fire, or the xmastravaganza)


But first the news….

“Welcome to Ohio! Ihre Papiere, bitte!” | Metafilter
“Governor Taft of Ohio is about to sign Senate Bill 9, the Ohio Patriot Act. Among its provisions: * Police can deny entry to “transportation infrastructure” to anyone not showing an ID; * Police can demand the name, address, and date of birth of anyone suspected of having committed a crime or being about to commit a crime, or having witnessed a crime or a plan to commit a crime. Failure to provide this information is an arrestable offense — so basically all demonstrators could be required to give their names, addresses and dates of birth or face arrest; * Reminiscent of Joe McCarthy’s famous question, many state licenses will begin with the question “Are you a member of an organization on the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List?”. Failure to answer means no license; answering affirmatively is self-incrimination. * Perhaps worst of all, the original version of the bill simply prohibited state or local governemnts or government employees from objecting to the USA PATRIOT act. The current version allows criticism, but threatens local government with the loss of funds if they in any way “materially hinder” Federal anti-terrorism efforts. “Welcome to Ohio! Ihre Papiere, bitte!” is from Metafilter, and included this comment: “The men who founded this nation were brave and forward thinking, the United States formed as the most modern and enlightened government in history. And now, through the spoiled tricksters in power, it is being dismantled while the citizens are at home watching another sitcom, laughing, laughing, laughing. […] Oh, and f*ck Jesus and every moron who voted for Republicans because they promised to stop homosexuals from getting married.” Yeah, f*ck ’em.

But it is Jesus’ birthday and all, supposedly. But maybe Jesus was a bastard. Maybe he was born in the summer. Ah well, at least it’s time off work, and we get to eat well.

Where is Santa Claus? | Timothy Comeau
from 1990 when I was in Grade 10

Sata Claus | Timothy Comeau
Santa loves logs

Santa is Satan right?
at first I thought this was satire than checked out the rest of the site and saw that it’s a looney Christian one and so the video I guess is supposed to be serious.Thanks to Rany (whoever you are) for the link.

Merry Religious Assimiliation Day | OmniNerd
“The first recorded Christmas on December 25th took place in the 4th century, a date coinciding with the birthdate of Mithras, the Persian sun god. Pope Julius I is rumored to have adjusted Jesus’ birthday to match Mithras’ because the church was unable to stop the pagan celebrations and thereby could associate their festivities in Jesus’ name. Other traditions owe their roots to non-Christian origin. Evergreen trees were revered by Druids for good luck and fertility because they withstood the hardships of winter. The tree became a religious symbol of everlasting life and was decorated to symbolize the sun’s power.”

The Earthly Father: What if Mary wasn’t a virgin? | Chloe Breyer
“Should Schaberg and other scholars who question the virgin birth be hurled into the outer darkness? The problem with dismissing them, as the fourth-century church authorities dismissed their forerunners, begins with Scripture. The biblical sources for the virgin conception are a few short passages in two of the four Gospels. In Matthew, an angel appears to Joseph, who is perplexed about his fiancee’s pregnancy. Should he divorce Mary or have her stoned her to death, as the law of Deuteronomy requires? “Joseph, Son of David,” says the angel, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus.” The angel then goes on to quote the Hebrew prophet Isaiah. “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.” (In fact, “virgin” comes from Matthew’s use of a Greek mistranslation; the Hebrew in Isaiah reads “young girl.”) The version in Luke is similar.”

Mary’s Not a Virgin | The Current speaks to Jane Schaberg
Mary’s wasn’t a virgin, she was just unfaithful I guess

Eluding Happiness: A Buddhist problem with Christmas. | Jess Row

Oh, but now Buddhism’s in the picture. Which is interesting because….

Scientists to check Nepal Buddha boy | Navin Singh Khadka

Introduction to Meditation | Gil Fronsdal

…which reminds me of the Buddhist joke I once heard which I never really understood. I guess that means I’m stupid. But whatever. It went: ‘what did the Buddhist say to the hot-dog vendor? — I’ll have one with everything.’

so, on to everything….

Blink and The Wisdom of Crowds | James Surowiecki & Malcolm Gladwell

Preacher of the profane | Daniel Binswanger

Ad glut turns off viewers | Gary Levin

Are you there God? It’s me Margaret | Mathew Fox interviews Margaret Atwood

Move Toward Plain Language in Canadian Court Decisions | Michel-Adrien Sheppard

The Plain Language Association INternational Vincent Van Gogh, the drawings | Franklin Einspruch

Art in Newfoundland | Craig Francis Power
nobody writes me letters anymore. boohoohoo

this was awesome:

Optics in Renaissance Art | Charles M. Falco
(link to realmedia presentation, or go here: Lectures at Princeton page)

and this was really good…:

Urban Planning | The Current speaks to Fred Kent

Fred Kent complained about Frank Gehry’s work and that of similar architects, which in Toronto, means he’s talking about our reno-projects…. he refered to it as ‘starkichecture’ and spoke of design being a disease. Monuments to ego (*cough* Liebskind) maybe, but as public spaces, they leave much to be desired. Personally I can see an historical connection to architecture and fascism, but who cares what I think.

Some pigs are more equal than others | Timothy Comeau

Not Special | Timothy Comeau

Let’s have a culture of six pack minds baby. Because then the world might be a better place. In the meantime there’s Muhammad Yunus.

Muhammad Yunus is one of the most inspiring individuals I’ve ever come across in the media-scape. A highly recommended video presentation….

Ending Global Poverty | Muhammad Yunus
“ABOUT THE LECTURE: Imagine a bank that loans money based on a borrower’s desperate circumstances — where, as Muhammad Yunus says, ‘the less you have, the higher priority you have.’ Turning banking convention on its head has accomplished a world of good for millions of impoverished Bangladeshis, as the pioneering economist Yunus has demonstrated in the last three decades. What began as a modest academic experiment has become a personal crusade to end poverty. Yunus reminds us that for two-thirds of the world’s population, ‘financial institutions do not exist.’ Yet, ‘we’ve created a world which goes around with money. If you don’t have the first dollar, you can’t catch the next dollar.’ It was Yunus’ notion, in the face of harsh skepticism, to give the poorest of the poor their first dollar so they could become self-supporting. ‘We’re not talking about people who don’t know what to do with their lives….They’re as good, enterprising, as smart as anybody else.’ His Grameen Bank spread from village to village as a lender of tiny amounts of money (microcredit), primarily to women. Yunus heard that “all women can do is raise chickens, or cows or make baskets. I said, ‘Don’t underestimate the talent of human beings.'” No collateral is required, nor paperwork—just an effort to make good and pay back the loan. Now the bank boasts 5 million borrowers, receiving half a billion dollars a year. It has branched out into student loans, health care coverage, and into other countries. Grameen has even created a mobile phone company to bring cell phones to Bangladeshi villages. Yunus envisions microcredit building a society where even poor people can open ‘the gift they have inside of them.'”

I’ve linked to things relating to Bonnie Basseler’s work before. Here is a video presentation from Printceton. I’ve linked to the real audio version, but there are others available from the source website here: Lectures at Princeton page

How Bacteria Talk to One Another | Bonnie Basseler speaking at Princeton (video)

Merry Christmas everybody.

-Mr. Timothy

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emailed by Timothy on Saturday 24 December 2005 @ 5:24 PM

05w36:2 Today's the Day

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 36 number 2 (today’s the day)

It being the fourth anniversary of Terrible Tuesday, I felt like I should comment here, since it’s something I’m wont to do anyway. These two articles deal with the USA. The first, published yesterday in the Globe and Mail, (and surprisingly free) is a wonderful summation of all that’s perceived to be wrong with the United States today, dealing with the usual Lefty complaints, but presented in what I think is a fair manner with an intelligence sometimes lacking as we assume everyone agrees with us and knows what were talking about.

The intro that the Globe published with it read: ‘9/11/05 The Watery hell in New Orleans shouldn’t have come as such a surprise, argues Paul William Roberts. Decades of oil-driven greed and misguided foreign policy have created a monster at odds with much of the planet and unwilling to take care of its own. The Stars and Stripes forever? Four years after the Twin Towers, it seems the superpower itself is starting to sink’.

It is an odd coincidence that the destruction of New Orleans came three weeks before the anniversary of the event which had such a profound impact on our psyches. I remember that day shattering the sense of doom that had been building as I watched North American society carelessly and recklessly consume ever greater amount of non-renewable resources for their urbane trucks, and argue about such irrelevant things as Presidential head, while letting Brittany Spears’ career get off the ground.

Then, the event caused a shift, and America went into its war mentally, paranoia growing like mushrooms around the social and ethical rot. Enron, the Iraq war, and then last year’s hope that it might all end in one humiliating defeat we could all get behind. But no, the Christians of the south prayed to their God and re-elected a man whom many in the world regularly compare to Hitler. Which is a characteristic of the hyperbole of our times, and not really accurate – for one thing, Hitler was competent. He had his evil plan and succeeded in replacing the Devil as a figure of evil for the secular age. The prayers of thousands of Muslims was answered in August, a month historically known for terrible things, and suddenly, America is spited upon, and the too-terrible-to-name administration is shown that it can’t do shit, but it can certainly let its citizens wallow in it.

So the second article looks back four years to the event and the New York artworld’s response to it with the thoughts of Arthur Danto. And I was prompted to write this lengthy intro by my own memories of finding art in the week after rather irrelevant, but I was haunted then by a quote that I’ve since been unable to track down, stating something to the effect that things like art are really important in times of tragedy to remind us that horrors aren’t the only story with regard to being human. Except this time, with the storm, I find watching CNN (since CBC is locked into a narcissistic drama) to be more compelling than any video art could ever be. As an artist, I find art totally lame right now. Danto hints at this in his article – the professional imagineers of our society cannot in the end imagine something more powerful than reality (and given how I’ve let Goodreads collect that anti-pomo arguments over the past year, I’m tempted to ask here that being disconnected from reality, how could artists not fail in the task?) But everything being as it is has taken the wind out of my sails in many ways – the catastrophe is depressing in that it was allowed to happen, and art is depressing in that it’s rather pathetic. And with the CBC on its perpetual walkabout, there isn’t really any good TV to watch, and the new season of Big Ideas on TVO hasn’t started yet. The usual end of summer blues aggravated by depressing world events … but, four years ago suggested that maybe this a new pattern, and in the end it’s a new addition to the list that prompts one to say c’est la vie. -Timothy

The flagging empire | Paul William Roberts
“In hindsight, the $14-billion price tag on the plan that had been drawn up for saving Louisiana’s coastline and the Mississippi’s delta now must look like a bargain to a Congress that has agreed to $50-billion in aid alone. It is safe to say that relocating more than a million people, along with the loss of the nation’s largest port, and the other economic consequences from Hurricane Katrina will bankrupt the United States. Or would, if anyone dared to call in the country’s debts, which now exceed any number of dollars one can write meaningfully – particularly since no one seems to know just what a trillion is anyway. It’s a known unknown. The unknown part is what happens to a nation that owes this much money: No other one has ever racked up such a tab. Even so, in the eyes of the world, the emperor stands naked. Monday’s issue of London’s The Independent noted: ‘We could be witnessing a significant moment in America. Hurricane Katrina has revealed some uncomfortable truths about the world’s richest and most powerful nation. The catastrophe in New Orleans exposed shocking inequalities – both of wealth and race – and also the relative impotence of the federal authorities when faced with a large-scale disaster. Many Americans are beginning to ask just what sort of country they are living in. There is a sense that the struggle for the soul of America is gathering pace.’ There is also suddenly a sense that the American Empire is in decline, that the only successful wars it has ever waged are the ones against the environment and its own people.”

9/11 Art as a Gloss on Wittgenstein | Arthur C. Danto
“[One of the truths I learned] was that even the most ordinary people respond to tragedy with art. Among many unforgettable experiences of the early aftermath of the event was the unprompted appearance of little shrines in fronts of doors, on windowsills and in public spaces everywhere. By nightfall on 9/11, New York was a complex of vernacular altars. In the course of that terrible day, a reporter had phoned, asking me what the art world was going to do about the attacks. I could not imagine that anyone not practically engaged in coping and helping was able to do anything except sit transfixed in front of the television screen, watching the towers burn, and of the crowds at street level running from danger and, later, trudging through smoke and detritus in search of someone they knew. I thought the last thing on anyone’s mind was art. But by day’s end the city was transformed into a ritual precinct, dense with improvised sites of mourning. I thought at the time that artists, had they tried to do something in response to 9/11, could not have done better than the anonymous shrine-makers who found ways of expressing the common mood and feeling of those days, in ways that everyone instantly understood.”

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emailed by Timothy on Sunday 11 September 2005 @ 12:07 PM

04w50:2 Erasing de Kooning

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2004 week 50 number 2 (erasing de Kooning)


Antonio Negri: The Nostalgic Revolutionary | Adrian Hamilton
“I try to think of a polite way to remind him of the fact that every communist revolution of the 20th century lead to tyranny and mass murder. And a nice way to say that communism was a betrayal of the democratic values of the left. […] Negri recently described the Soviet Union as ‘a society criss-crossed with extremely strong instances of creativity and freedom’, which is more than he has ever said for any democracy. He even says that the Soviet Union fell because it was too successful. I point this out, and he replies: ‘Now you are talking about memory. Who controls memory? Faced with the weight of memory, one must be unreasonable! Reason amounts to eternal Cartesianism. The most beautiful thing is to think ‘against’, to think ‘new’. Memory prevents revolt, rejection, invention, revolution.’ He leans back as though he has brilliantly rebutted any critique of communism. So, is he seriously saying that we should never look at history, that the left should carry on as though communism was a great success, that we should not reconsider our values at all? […] None of the world’s real problems – from poverty to tyranny to climate change – are discussed in Negri’s work, except to claim that the poor are ‘more alive’, and the citizens of liberal democracies are living under the ‘real tyranny’, and… oh, I give up. It’s not just that this preacher of Empire has no clothes; he is living in an intellectual nudist colony. There are some important anti-globalisation writers, such as Monbiot and Joseph Stiglitz. But Negri is trying to keep alive a patient – Marxism – whose heart stopped beating long ago. So, this is where revolutionary Marxism comes to die. It has been reduced to an obscure parlour game for ageing bourgeois nostalgics, played out a few feet from Buckingham Palace by an old terrorist who needs us to forget.”

The philosopher as dangerous liar | Patrick West
“In his 1977 pamphlet Forget Foucault, the eminent French social historian Jean Baudrillard argued that Foucault’s writings are themselves discourses in power that impose their own narrative, projecting their own will to truth. Those who lionise this ‘author’ today, devoted as they are to this source of power-knowledge, continue to contradict themselves. Perhaps it is time to take heed of Baudrillard’s exhortation. Perhaps it is time to forget Foucault.”

Feeling sorry for Rosalind Krauss | Roger Kimball
“It is easy to be exasperated with Rosalind Krauss. She is pretentious, obscurantist, and mean-spirited. Enjoying a position of great academic respect, she has, through her writings, teaching, and editorship of October, exercised a large and baneful influence on contemporary writing and thinking about culture. In the end, however, one’s exasperation is likely to be mixed with pity. Here is a woman who has devoted her professional life to art and ideas but who clearly has no feeling for art and for whom ideas are ghostly playthings utterly cut off from reality.” Article date May 1993

The Derrida Industry | Brian Leiter
“Of course, even Wittgenstein and Heidegger are controversial choices, though in terms of sheer impact, they are plainly in a wholly different league from Derrida, so much so that anyone knowledgeable about 20th-century European and Anglophone philosophy and intellectual culture must laugh out loud at Professor Taylor’s dishonest hyperbole. (Why do those in literary studies think the intellectual world revolves around their once proud discipline, now enfeebled by three decades of bad philosophy, bad history, and bad social science?) […]If he had become a football player as he had apparently hoped, or taken up honest work of some other kind, then we might simply remember him as a ‘good man.’ But he devoted his professional life to obfuscation and increasing the amount of ignorance in the world: by ‘teaching’ legions of earnest individuals how to read badly and think carelessly. He may have been a morally decent man, but he led a bad life, and his legacy is one of shame for the humanities.” NOTE: a blog posting taking Mark Taylor’s opinion piece (orignally in the New York Times and readable here) to task for his ‘dishonest hyperbole’ with a breakdown and argument with his points.

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emailed by Timothy on Friday 10 December 2004 @ 6:30 PM

04w49:2 Bad Writing, or, Academic Prose

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2004 week 49 number 2 (bad writing, or, academic prose)

Helena Echlin’s article which I posted in the last email, has drawn criticism from a friend of mine about how unfair it is for her to pull one sentence out of context in order to build an argument around it. His full reply and my own to it I’ll post on my site later, but for now, I need to send out the link to this article, which involves the charge of “the out of context sentence”. It is based on Denis Dutton’s Bad Writing contest, which awards based obfuscated sentences. The 1999 winner was Judith Butler, for this sentence:

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

Clearly Helena’s example doesn’t measure up, but as Mark Bauderlein argues in this goodread,

Culler calls it irresponsible to pull sentences out of context … even if we do take Culler’s point at face value, it is a challenge to imagine any context in which Butler’s winning sentence would not be an example of bad writing. Culler’s explanation may give it some sense, but it still sounds windy, pretentious, and clogged.

This article is a review of a recently published book defending bad writing by those theorists Dutton’s contest was parodying. Once again, thanks to Erin O’Connor, who posted this link on her blog today. – Timothy

Bad Writing’s Back | Mark Bauerlein
“The cheap partisan spirit reinforces the point made by Dutton, David G. Myers, Katha Pollitt, and others that the jargon and bloat of theory prose excludes every readership but other theorists – a damning claim given that the theorists purport to labor for social justice.[…] The controversy called for more humor and less hauteur, more admission and less theoretical wriggling. That would require theorists to thicken their skins and behave with modesty and balance, a tough act for people who in their own small universe run seminars, departments, and lecture series with the surety and vanity of pop culture icons […] We should apply the pragmatic test to today’s theorists. What if in the end nobody abandons common sense and adopts the theory habit? Butler aims to ‘provoke new ways of looking’ and Culler repeats Emerson’s dictum, ‘Truly speaking, it is not instruction but provocation that I can receive from another soul,’ but what if nobody is provoked? […] the theorists’ recondite language cuts them off from real politics […] only certain disruptions thwart common sense and alter the world. […] If you propose to explode certain attitudes and beliefs, and to do so by disrupting their proper idiom, then you must compose a language compelling, powerful, memorable, witty, striking, or poignant enough to supplant it. Your language must be an attractive substitute, or else nobody will echo it.”

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emailed by Timothy on Monday 29 November 2004 @ 7:11 PM