Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Happy Archivist

Here's a good WSJ article about collectors and their collections.

This sounds like an interesting fellow: A collectibles researcher in Vera Cruz, Pa., Mr. [Harry] Rinker, 64, himself collects everything from jigsaw puzzles to antique toilet paper. But he thinks sentimental "accumulators" need a reality check. "Old-timers thought the next generation would love their stuff the way they did," he says. "Well guess what -- it's not happening." He advises: Enjoy your collections, die with them, and have no expectations about anything after that... ..."Collecting is about memory, and young people today have a different memory base," explains Mr. Rinker, who is well known in antiquing circles for his books and personal appearances. He lives in a 14,000-square-foot former elementary school in Vera Cruz, Pa. He uses the classrooms as storage spaces for his 250 different collections. He says he doesn't care what becomes of it all once he's gone, and if his children opt to use his rolls of century-old toilet paper, "that might be the finest honor they can give me."

Now on the other hand, even with collections of a more modest scope, some people still run into obstacles: Some collectors now accept that younger people don't want their stuff. Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky, 64, has collected the last editions of 79 daily newspapers that closed down since 1963. His adult children don't want the old newspapers, which fill a closet. "The only kind of paper my family wants is greenbacks and stock certificates," he says. He hasn't been able to find a university to take his collection, either. And now he's under the gun to get rid of it. He is about to marry his third wife, who is 27 years old, and in the prenuptial agreement, there's a clause that he must dispose of the collection by Dec. 31. She wants to store her shoes in that closet. "At least I can wear my shoes," says his fiancée, Jennifer Graham. "He never reads those papers, and besides, he likes how I look in my shoes." What a bitch! I hope she at least has something like this in mind. She'd better! Beeyotch.

Let me tell you one of the most wonderful things about The ♥GF♥ -- She lets me keep all my shit. Not only that, but she likes that I like it! I have stacks and stacks of cool stuff (some of which, I'll admit, I might not remember the exact significance of w/o a little reflection...) which in the aggregate would make the Fly Lady cough up her spleen. But, the other day The ♥ got me some frames and we hung up my Time Magazines from WWII in the hallway. (Specifically: 7/26/43, Gen. Patton; 9/27/43, House Speaker Rayburn; 9/25/44, Gen. Lee; 4/2/45, Gen Ridgway). Ah, the life of a happy archivist...


Update, 10:14 AM, Sunday 3/5/06: More comments on shoes vs. newspapers here, here, here, and here. Any of you librarians know of a good home for these papers, in case worst comes to worst?

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Few More Things...

  • Even though I think that re-airing the South Park episode Bloody Mary would be a swell way to show the world that we don't truck with that nonsense about getting all work up about cartoons of religious icons, according to (the NSFW) Daze, it doesn't seem as though it's gonna happen.
  • Stop what you're doing and check out this great Boing Boing post about the blocking of their site in various oppressive areas of the world through the use of anti-nudity software. Excerpt: We've decided not to rejig our editorial process to make it easier for a censorware company to block us for their customers. Instead, we're creating a clearinghouse of information on how to defeat censorware... ...We considered their offer, and decided not to do it. What happens when the next censorware company comes along with another editorial process they want us to engage in to help them censor the site? More importantly: why should we let a company that helps corrupt dictatorships oppress their citizens dictate morality to us? So instead we've decided to help put Secure Computing out of business. In response, they are enlisting Michelangelo:

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Weekend Wrap-Up

  • I couldn't figure out how to put the "Support Denmark" banner I wanted to add a couple of weeks ago into my template, so, Plan B: Check out the "Buy Danish" logo in the sidebar.
  • I'm watching my hero Brian Lamb interview Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds right now, on the C-Span Q&A show. Transcript and video here.
  • Cleaning out some more junk from the junk room this weekend, I found this article from a few weeks ago. Excerpt: In Washington, Baltimore, Atlanta and elsewhere in the country, union organizers are scouring shelters and recruiting homeless people to maintain their picket lines, paying just above minimum wage and failing to provide health benefits. The national carpenters’ union, which broke from the AFL-CIO four years ago in a bitter dispute over organizing strategies and other issues, is hiring homeless people to stage noisy protests at non-union construction sites... ...With homes and offices being built or renovated and real estate still booming in many urban areas, he said, the union carpenters are too busy to join the picket lines. Sorry, that was my head just exploding. I won't go to the extent today of saying that unions suck, just that they often suck.
  • Here's a great interview with one of my favorite directors of the 90s, Whit Stillman. He only made three movies, all of which are subtle, quirky, and excellent: Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco. More articles about Mr. Stillman here, here, and here. Fansites here and here. It's been too long since I have viewed these films; I have copies of all three on taped-from-cable VHS around here somewhere, but I want to catch the new Metropolitan DVD release. Barcelona is also available on DVD, but as far as I know, TLDOD is not. (It was, but it seems to have gone out of print and is now selling used for $70.00 plus on Amazon!) I'm Netflixing the first two and going to see what I can find out about the third.
  • The ♥GF♥ and I watched the documentary series Guns, Germs, and Steel (based on the book of the same name by Jared Diamond) yesterday while we played Scrabble. (Two games!) I like these "big explanation" theories; I hesitate to embrace or reject most things like that out of hand (here is a criticism of his book, from shortly after it came out) but I certainly want to read Prof. Diamond's book sometime. An interesting fact Diamond pointed out: South Africa is about the same distance from the Equator as Northern Europe, so weather, seasons, length of days, potential for growth of crops, etc. ended up being similar for both areas. In all this time of reading history books and stuff, that simple fact had never occurred to me. GG&S Wikipedia entry here.
  • Did I post this before? Hidden gags in Looney Tunes cartoons. If I did, then I guess it deserves to be posted twice.

Tired now... fortunately bed is right next to puter.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Results Are In...

Here are the results of a quiz that I found over at Tinkerty Tonk. Make of it what you will:

What Philosophy Do You Follow?

You scored as Utilitarianism. Your life is guided by the principles of Utilitarianism: You seek the greatest good for the greatest number.

The said truth is that it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.

--Jeremy Bentham

Whenever the general disposition of the people is such, that each individual regards those only of his interests which are selfish, and does not dwell on, or concern himself for, his share of the general interest, in such a state of things, good government is impossible.

--John Stuart Mill

More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...

Utilitarianism

65%

Hedonism

65%

Existentialism

50%

Justice (Fairness)

50%

Kantianism

45%

Strong Egoism

40%

Nihilism

20%

Divine Command

20%

Apathy

15%

What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with QuizFarm.com

Maybe I'll go to that big Utilitarianism resort down in the Caribbean for vacation this year.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Items

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Catching Up on Stuff

A few Sunday-evening items:

  • Attention Canadian Embassy: You'd better start looking into this incident and sending some Mounties out to speak with the appropriate folks before things get out of hand. (You know how the Blogosphere can be...)
  • Via Freakonomics, Israeli political cartoonists are hard at work creating anti-Semitic cartoons in reaction to the call for such material by the Iranians.
  • I'm keeping an eye on GOP Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel for 2008. Here's a bumper sticker I might get.
  • Technorati has the Feb. 06 State of the Blogosphere, Part Two posted.
  • A few months ago, I linked to this 2003 Atlantic Monthly piece by Jonathan Rauch about introverts after seeing it discussed on Ann Althouse's blog. Now, Prof. Althouse again points to The Atlantic Monthly, this time to an interview with Rauch about the lasting popularity of that three-year-old article. Excerpt: The weather's not interesting. But once an introvert gets on a subject that they know about or care about or that intrigues them intellectually, the opposite often takes hold. They get passionately engaged and turned on by the conversation. But it's not socializing that's going on there. It's learning or teaching or analyzing, which involves, I'm convinced, a whole different part of the brain from the socializing part. (SSMW, take note.) Internet-wise, they say this is AM's most popular piece ever. Here are a bunch of the people that link to the 2003 article, and here are a bunch more.
  • I just got done watching the documentary Paradise Lost: The Robin Hood Hills Child Murders about the so-called West Memphis Three. (I know, I'm about ten years too late.) I'm not sure what I think about the whole thing, other than that the way things were presented in the film made me question their guilt. However, was there evidence that could have been shown differently had another filmmaker made the doc? I always hesitate to jump on the bandwagon one way or another on these things, because I was not a juror. The movie was by the same guys who made the recent documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, which I liked quite a bit (they got their entree into MetallicaWorld by virtue of their PL:TRHHCM work). I just started the follow-up, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations. Comments to possibly follow. Initial comment: This documentary is waaaaaaay meta. Lots of Heisenberg at work here.
  • Here's Cinerati on the purpose of the blogroll. Excerpt: So it seems to me that blogrolls can serve three purposes, or combinations thereof: the living bookshelf, self-promotion, or grab bag. The question is, "is there some kind of moral/ethical standard which should be applied to blogroll use?"
  • I guess it's true -- Size Matters!
  • The (Neutral) Cheerleader Paradox. Excerpt: I was watching women's hockey and noticed that there were "neutral" cheerleaders. In addition to being so PC as to make me gag, this strikes me as somewhat paradoxical. Presumably the purpose of the neutrality is to remain "positive" and not cheer *against* anyone. But it seems to me that this is literally impossible for the following seems true to me. Connectedness Thesis: For any event E, E is good for the home team if E is bad for the visitor.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Evolution Sunday; At the Movies

Happy Evolution Sunday (aka Darwin's birthday), everyone. Chicago Tribune story here. New York Newsday story here. Newsday excerpt: The Rev. Richard E. Edwards will not mince words in his sermon today about God and Charles Darwin, the 19th century naturalist whose theory of evolution rocked the world. "I want to reaffirm the compatibility of Biblical tradition and modern science," said Edwards, pastor of Stony Brook Community Church, a small, Methodist congregation that draws members from the nearby university and medical center. "This is a community where science counts, and where folks really need to hear that." At a time when conservative Christians are mounting aggressive challenges to the teaching of evolution in public schools, Edwards is one of about 400 pastors nationwide, mostly from mainline Protestant churches, who are participating in "Evolution Sunday" to promote the idea that Christianity and science may coexist peacefully. Note: Today is also Darren Aronofsky's birthday. Wouldn't "Aronofsky Sunday" make for some interestingly themed sermons?

February 12, 1809 was the birth date and year of Mr. Darwin, but also of Abraham Lincoln. I don't believe in any of that astrology nonsense, but I do like to keep lists of things. One of my lists is of famous people born on the same date, same year. One of these days I'll have to dig it up and post some examples. Of the top of my head, however:
  • October 1, 1924 - Jimmy Carter, William Rehnquist
  • June 1, 1926 - Andy Griffith, Marilyn Monroe
  • June 18, 1942 - Paul McCartney, Roger Ebert

Update, 5:02 PM, 2/12/06: San Francisco Chronicle article on Lincoln and Darwin. Excerpt: On this day in 1809, two of the most famous men of the 19th century were born under very different circumstances -- one in a Kentucky log cabin, the other in an English country house complete with stable and servants' quarters. The first is, of course, Abraham Lincoln. And the second? None other than Charles Darwin. That two such influential men should be born on the same day of the same year surely is one of history's most amazing coincidences. In fact, had the second man been anyone else in the world except Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution, it might even be cited as an example of ... intelligent design! Needless to say, Darwin's birthday is not a day of great celebration in intelligent design circles.

I must take issue with this. There are only 365 (or 366) days in the year. There are fewer than 200 years since their births. It would be statisically quite improbable to never have overlaps in birth dates and years of at least some great figures in the history of the past 200 years -- in other words, if it wasn't Lincoln and Darwin, it would be Lincoln and somebody else, or Darwin and somebody else, or somebody else and somebody else. (Like I said, I don't go for a lot of that astrologyish stuff.)

Check out this discussion of the Birthday Paradox question. Excerpt: This question is more complicated than flipping a coin, because the chance of finding two people with the same birthday depends on the number of people you ask. If there were only one other person in your math class, you might be surprised to find out that she had the same birthday as you. If there were a pair of people with the same birthday in a class of 366 people, would you still be surprised?

One of my favorite classes in high school was Probability, Statistics, and Logic. One time the teacher asked us to try and figure out a similar question and took intuitive guesses from the rest of the class, most of which were to the effect that there's no way that there could be overlapping birthdays in a class of 28 kids. I sat in the second seat back on the farthest row on the left. I happened to know that the girl in front of me had the same birthday as I did. Due to the coincidence of the seating chart, the teacher asked that girl what her birthday was first, then asked me, and then the intuitives were all like "no way..." especially when it turned out another kid in another row had that birthday too.

End of update.

In other news, we watched The Aristocrats, and as Penn Jillette said at the end of the commentary (and I paraphrase), "Name another movie where there's no violence, no hostility, no hate, no conflict; Just a whole lot of people having a good time and loving each other." I don't know about the "loving each other" part, but the concept of this film [a series of jokes revolving around a variety of "unspeakably" (irony - get it?) perverse acts with (usually) the same minimalist punchline] fits in well with the word/image-is-not-the-thing theme that I've been going on about for a few days. Also, see this NOTM post on logic, humor, and discontinuity. I'm finishing the extras on this disc this morning.

I watched Rabid, too, and I liked it pretty good. If you find the idea of a sharp-toothed, carnivorous appendage coming out of a porn star's armpit appealing, then this is the movie for you. (Did I mention that one of the consequences of the armpit-appendage's appetite is that the cops machine gun Santa Claus in the middle of the mall?)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Rabid; Aristocrats; The Image Is Not the Thing; Conan; Olympics

This weekend I'm going to watch the late-70s Canadian zombie-ish classic Rabid (written and directed by David Cronenberg, executive produced by the now-supermainstream Ivan Reitman, starring former vice-presidential candidate Marilyn Chambers) and last year's filthiest-joke-in-the-world meditation, The Aristocrats. Observations to follow.

A few more things along the lines of the Magritte and Hayakawa references from Thursday. First of all, The Map Is Not the Territory. (Although, Tim Boucher asks why it couldn't be the territory...) And, from a clever faculty member at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, Ceci n'est pas une Bible. Islamic cartoon protesters and anti-flag-desecration legislators, take note!

Here's Cinerati on Conan the Barbarian Sophisticate.

Finally, something interesting about the Olympics!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Thursday Stuff

My ♥GF♥ and I are watching the second episode of Survivor: Exile Island, which I taped this evening. I realize that a while ago I had meant to post some of my thoughts and observations about Survivor; I'll have to make sure to do so this season.

Contemplating... making me sleepy... going to bed...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Early Morning Stuff

Gotta be up early for work for the next few days. Ugggghhhh...

A few items:
  • This quarter's State of the Blogosphere is up. Excerpt: The blogosphere is over 60 times bigger than it was only 3 years ago. New blog creation continues to grow. We currently track over 75,000 new weblogs created every day, which means that on average, a new weblog is created every second of every day - and 13.7 million bloggers are still posting 3 months after their blogs are created. In other words, even though there's a reasonable amount of tire-kicking going on, blogging is growing as a habitual activity. In October of 2005, when Technorati was only tracking 19 million blogs, about 10.4 million bloggers were still posting 3 months after the creation of their blogs.
  • Ladies: Bitch, Ph.D. needs your help. She has a survey for you for a project she is working on. Excerpt: If you are a woman who blogs, under your real name or under a pseudonym (or completely anonymously, with neither), and you'd be willing to do a brief survey about your blogging for me, leave me a comment with your email addy, would you?
  • Check out the 70s movie stuff at the newly blogrolled Pimpadelic Wonderland.
  • Here are a bunch of George Orwell links.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Now Showing

I've been watching a few things this week, most notably the first two discs of Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.0. I was so disappointed when I missed the mailman on Saturday, because I could have sent back disc 1 to Netflix by now and have disc 3 in my hands all the more quickly. I watched discs 1 and 2 straight through, and then watched their commentaries straight through. Btw, I noticed the following usage in the Amazon review:

...As all of these plot threads are expertly interwoven, the high-stakes conflict of BG 2.0 culminates in a suspenseful mid-season cliffhanger that pits Adama against Admiral Cain (played by Star Trek: Next Generation alumnus Michelle Forbes), who turns a happy reunion with Battlestar Pegasus into a massive military showdown...

I think they meant to say alumna rather than alumnus (at least according to the American Heritage Dictionary).

I watched a couple of movies on VHS from my going-out-of business stack this week; 1988's Flesh Eating Mothers (crying out for hyphenation, I know) (recently released on DVD) and Fear No Evil (no hyphenation needed, but also recently released on DVD.)

Flesh-Eating Mothers (couldn't resist -- otherwise it would imply a situation where somehow flesh consumed mothers) dealt with a suburban community sticken by a mutant STD that turned only women who have borne children into cannibals with super strength. If that brief description intrigues you, then check it out. If not, you might as well skip it.

Fear No Evil (1981) latched on to the Exorcist/Omen devil-or-demons-incarnated-in-human-form horror trend of the 70s. Worth watching for afficianados for the imagery, and also because it didn't really make a lot of sense internally. But the most notable thing about this film was its soundtrack, which gives an interesting insight into how things were before music-rights clearance went ballistic. (I wonder how the recent DVD release fares in terms of which of these tracks actually made it on to the DVD's soundtrack.) The VHS tape I have here is copyrighted 1983, and I was astounded at how many great bands were featured in the soundtrack, particularly The B-52's, The Boom Town Rats, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Richard Hell, Patti Smith, and Talking Heads. As the teenage incarnation of the devil stood on a balcony overlooking the parking lot full of high schoolers, the Pistols' famous three-descending-chords intro played, and we heard "I am an AntiChrist. I am an AnarKiste." etc. etc. I can't imagine that in a similarly budgeted movie of any sort today. You know what hearing those songs made me want to do? Go out and buy a couple of albums to fill in my collection of those artists' works, and then tell my friends about it. It is absolutely beyond me why the owners of music today are so aggressive in squashing free advertising of their product. God forbid anyone else should ever make a nickel from their material, even though movie/TV soundtracks promote the very same back catalogs from which they are ostensibly being prevented from "pillaging." Awkward grammar in that last sentence, but you know what I mean.

LBNL, I watched (for the third time? Fourth?) one of my favorite dialogue movies of all time, My Dinner With Andre. One thing I noticed in the credits, which had escaped me until just this morning, is that Lloyd Kaufmann (yes, that Lloyd Kaufman! -- Even though it seems he had grown an extra "n" for MDWA) is listed as production manager, and Troma, Inc. is given as the facility used for "additional production services." In the photo caption of this NOTM post from October, I was going for humor through juxtaposition. Maybe if Louis Malle had called in sick one day and Kaufman had seen his opportunity, that very scenario might have come to be!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

There's Got to Be Some Yin and Yang in This

Today we mark the passing of Al "Grandpa" Lewis, a dirty old man if ever there was one (look at points # 92 and 93); and also Betty Friedan, mortal enemy of dirty old men everywhere.

Is this the cosmos keeping in balance or something?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Could I Please Have a Kaffiyeh and a Danish

Props to the people of Denmark (specifically, the journalists at Jyllands Posten) for their role in encouraging our Islamic friends to lighten up a little bit. The now-infamous illustrations at issue can be found at the bottom of this summary from the Brussels Journal, or can be seen here individually. Slate does some Blogosphere summaries. The Toronto Star interviews Doug "Kudzu" Marlette on the topic. Here are William F. Buckley's comments. Excerpt: The most striking aspect of the controversy is the leverage of the offended Muslim community. Even in the United States, even a publication as venturesome as Slate magazine describes the offending caricatures but is careful not to reproduce them. A quite natural curiosity attaches to how these 12 caricatures actually looked. One of them features Muhammad in a vaporous cloud addressing an assembly of suicide terrorists, with the caption that the heavenly kingdom has run out of virgins, so that aspirant debauchers simply have to lay off for a while. How was all that actually depicted by the cartoonist? Even the banal representation of Muhammad with a bomb replacing the turban on his head did not appear in The New York Times, the paper of record.

This hysteria is now well past the insane point (even though these things have been floating around since September). Protests Riots have reached from Europe to Jerusalem to Indonesia. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are moderate Muslims who are calling for calm, and there are always troublemaking rabble-rousers, but Jeez Louise...

Here's the code for a Support-Denmark Ribbon that you can paste into your template if you so desire. I'll probably update my template sometime Saturday.

The always-excellent Boing Boing points to this collection of depictions of Muhammed through the ages, up to the present.

Here's one of the cartoons, which I thought was rather interesting. It's my favorite of the bunch. Not riot-worthy, IMHO, but what do I know? I live in a country where (most of us) treasure Freedom of Speech. The rest of the cartoons seem about as offensive as a Gomer Pyle episode written by Herblock.

It's easy to forget in America, that even when a couple of overzealous establishment lackeys arrest Cindy Sheehan on trumped up charges because of her T-shirt ("Unlawful conduct" -- How Orwellian!) that Freedom of Speech is still the standard that we go by, because the Capitol Police Chief had to backtrack and kiss ass immediately, a sign that such authoritarian abuses are the exception rather than the rule.

You know what makes America great? That even though our heritage is tied so closely to Christian traditions (don't worry, I'm not one of those ignorant of the deism of the founders), we allow mockery (good-natured and otherwise) of Christianity to occur without a realistic thought of any governmental body taking any action. Can you imagine a majority-Islamic nation's parallel of Jesus Christ Superstar? Not to even mention AntiChrist Superstar? Or Oh God!? Or The Omen? Or Life of Brian?

Here's what we could do to demonstrate how great America is: Get Comedy Central to re-air the recent South Park Episode "Bloody Mary." A bunch of Catholic activists got upset over an episode last month in which a statue of the Virgin Mary was depicted as menstruating, causing the townsfolk to proclaim it a miracle. Some control-freaks with no sense of humor decided to twist the arms of Viacom bigwigs to make them promise that the episode would never see the light of day. Comedy Central claims that they haven't shelved them permanently, but I've been keeping an eye out since the controversy arose and I still haven't seen it air. What Bullshit! Let Bloody Mary air again, ASAP, and let it serve as an example to the rest of the world of the liberties and freedoms we enjoy.

I'm always frustrated by those who confuse ideas associated with a thing with the thing itself. There are lots and lots of people in this world (and in this country) who need to take a valium and read some Hayakawa.

Update, 10:26 AM, 2/4/06: Amba has two good posts full of comments and link round-ups here and here. Also, check out Tim Cavanaugh's interesting article in Reason Magazine, in which he views the controversy with a certain amount of optimism.

Update, 9:22 AM, 2/5/06: Christopher Hitchens weighs in on this matter in Slate. Excerpt:

Islam makes very large claims for itself. In its art, there is a prejudice against representing the human form at all. The prohibition on picturing the prophet—who was only another male mammal—is apparently absolute. So is the prohibition on pork or alcohol or, in some Muslim societies, music or dancing. Very well then, let a good Muslim abstain rigorously from all these. But if he claims the right to make me abstain as well, he offers the clearest possible warning and proof of an aggressive intent. This current uneasy coexistence is only an interlude, he seems to say. For the moment, all I can do is claim to possess absolute truth and demand absolute immunity from criticism. But in the future, you will do what I say and you will do it on pain of death.

I refuse to be spoken to in that tone of voice, which as it happens I chance to find "offensive."

Last update on this topic before I just make a new post on it, 10:03 AM, 2/5/06: The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel ran this excellent piece by dissident (and pseudonymous) Muslim writer Ibn Warraq. Excerpt: The great British philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty, "Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being 'pushed to an extreme'; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case. "The cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten raise the most important question of our times: freedom of expression. Are we in the west going to cave into pressure from societies with a medieval mindset, or are we going to defend our most precious freedom -- freedom of expression, a freedom for which thousands of people sacrificed their lives?