Turning Away from Television Media

CNN and the rest of the cable news networks have dropped the war in Iraq like a hot potato and are running overflow coverage of Laci Peterson murder stories, which seems as likely to have a long term impact on America as the Gary Condit story did before 9-11. Watching the weekend news on ABC I realized that one of the things that makes cable news so unbearable is the comlpete lack of storytelling structure and narrative.

Turning the Bell Curve Upside Down

In “The Shape of Things to Come” Daniel H. Pink argues that the bell curve or normal distribution discovered during the 19th century statsitcal renaissance is losing its validity. More and more parts of the statistical world are distributing themselves as ‘well curves’, high on the ends and low in the middle. For examples he gives wage distribution in the U.S. (growing at the top and the bottom), consumer electronics (miniturization of screens and the gigantism of home theaters), and business (mega-corporations and the single entrepreneur).

Writing the World

Sheldon Pacotti, writing in Salon, makes some connections between languages, education, freedom, surveillance, and new technologies that is worth reading by those who haven’t noticed the connections already. This paragraph really caught my attention: As the computer becomes the central tool for research and development, scientific knowledge takes on a new character. Like software, it becomes primarily functional rather than descriptive. During the age of the printing press – which brought with it dictionaries, encyclopedias, tables, journals, proofs, and the modern community of scientists – the project of science appeared to be the “understanding” or “description” of the natural world, which was conceived of as a clockwork set in motion by God.

Education, Science, and Freedom

A mixed bag of entries, offered with little comment.

Religion, Politics, and Subtlety

I just finished watching two intriguing programs on television that mix, at least in my mind, notions about religion and politics. The first was tonight’s Charlie Rose. This was the most pessimistic assessment of the Iraq war I’ve seen so far on Charlie Rose. Last week’s episode with William Kristol was the complete opposite - oh how things have changed in a week, how the propaganda of a decapitating victory and the cheering crowds of Iraqi’s seems to have disappeared

Tivo Made Me Love Barbara Stanwyck

Ty Burr, film critic for the Boston Globe, has a lengthy essay about the changing perceptions of what makes a film a classic. He contrasts the deciennial poll of Sight and Sound, which when last conducted in 2002 didn’t contain any movies made in the last 30 years, with an informal poll of young movie students. The informal poll results start with Pulp Fiction and end with The Matrix. Still, if there’s one thing a kid in 2003 knows about, it’s navigating a universe of images: Our children have grown up in a world more purely mediated than most of us can even begin to grasp.

Dawkins on the War and Evil

So I avoid commenting on the war by commenting on religion, in particular the points of view of Richard Dawkins and Fred Clark of Slactivist. Dawkins opines thus: Bush seems sincerely to see the world as a battleground between Good and Evil, St Michael’s angels against the forces of Lucifer. We’re gonna smoke out the Amalekites, send a posse after the Midianites, smite them all and let God deal with their souls.

Genes and Atheism

Interesting report on the strident atheism of Francis Crick and James Watson the discoverers of DNA. My favorite anecdote is this: The antipathy to religion of the DNA pioneers is long standing. In 1961 Crick resigned as a fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, when it proposed to build a chapel. When Sir Winston Churchill wrote to him pointing out that “none need enter [the chapel] unless they wish”, Crick replied that on those grounds, the college should build a brothel, and enclosed a cheque for 10 guineas.

More Theorizing About Security and the New World Order

Lee Harris and Robert Dreyfuss have written intriguing articles about the world historical gamble that George Bush and his neoconservative, hawkish advisers are taking with Iraq. Robert Dreyfuss, “Just the Beginning,” The American Prospect vol. 14 no. 3, March 1, 2003 Lee Harris, Our World-Historical Gamble, Tech Central Station Although the gamble is huge and the downsides could be massive I find the arguments for reshaping the world more persuasive than the pallid arguments made by the Bush administration up to this point.

The Meaning of Power

I was at my local philosophy club last night for a discussion of ‘the meaning of power.’ One of the common descriptions of power that seemed to come up in our discussions was the ‘power’ of defiance or renunciation. Examples were given from the Holocaust of Jews surviving no matter what happened to them phyisically because of their mental refusal to surrender their personal dignity. Despite how appealing this picture of internal power and dignity seems I now think this morning that there is something flawed in the whole logic.