Occasionally humanity is amusing enough to temporarily distract me from general feelings of worthlessness.
- Walking to the Sky, the eyesore providing embarassment at the head of our campus, is down after having wobbled dangerously one time too many. Hopefully it'll be sent somewhere else or melted down. It would be optimally snarky if I could say that its creator, Jonathan Borofsky, has contributed nothing worthwhile to the art world, but that's not (quite) true - although much of his work is repetitive crap, some of it is pretty cool. I overheard a number of other people pleased that the thing is down.
- Conservapedia has started a Conservative Bible Project, to reword the Christian Bible to fit the ideaology of American Conservativism (Conservatives of Britain would be horrified). Their beginnings of translation are here. I used to be able to be simply dismissive of these conservative-revisionist efforts in the public sphere (conservapedia being just one example), as they're intellectually childish and ignorant of all the work done by scholars in whatever field they want, reinventing entire fields with armchair versions designed to suit their conclusions, and projecting their modern ideology as something that has existed since the dawn of time (does this project have anyone who understands Modern Hebrew? Ancient Hebrew? Conversant with Biblical scholarship? Familiar with the issues surrounding every translation of Torah/Bible into modern languages?). Now I am deeply concerned, based on the success of Fox News. Admittedly, it's a single player, but it is a very large player, and works on the base instincts of humanity in a way that proper journalism does not.
- You have to love an online forum discussion that has people saying things like 「Sorry, moron, but you can test for mitochondrial disorders at any age, and even test for them in the mother because they're maternally inherited」.
- Returning for a moment to the above, while good practices for academic "neutrality" (as messy a concept/tradition that is) is well established, Conservapedia's breaking of these traditions make their foundations more clear, just as seeing Fox News (and some of its competitors, recently) flout journalistic standards helps us see what and why those standards were. On Wikipedia, there was constant debate on the finer points of how one practically strives towards the tradition of neutrality (e.g. do you use honourifics when referring to royalty?), while having an entire encyclopædia-ish thing populated by Ken Ham-type people actually provides the alternate reality of what happens when people don't even try for that. A (perhaps overstrong) example would be to go for a hotbutton article - compare Conservapedia's article on Atheism with Wikipedia's. Alternatively, try Nietzsche, Christianity, or other identity-centric topics. I think this shows that good initial rules (or even good efforts to continually steer towards appropriate ones) are not enough to achieve the style/feel we've come to call neutrality.
- Liberalpedia seems to be a joke made in response to Conservapedia. It's even less serious.
- See picture for an awesome way to protest. Maybe for the G20, we should've all brought cows (although, despite being mostly Scottish, I don't know the best way to rent a cow for special occasions, even if sponsorship programs abound).
- Disobedience of hand and disobedience of mind are twin villains in sketching. The hand that does not draw what it is told, the mind that refuses to keep a steady vision for a summoning.
- Salman Rushdie's 「Shame」 - fantastic. It took me awhile when reading it that it was on the surface level about Zufikar Bhutto, although like many great novels, it's also about human nature - the kind of thing that is only deeply learned with a conscious effort to do so, and which changes anyone who becomes such a student.
- An article in Policy Review (I read a number of political journals don't assume things blah blah) talks about the death of 「Honor Culture」 in society. It's the strong notion of Honour culture that a lot of people don't understand when they talk about the "insanity" of others (and so dismissing cultures thousands of years old). There are some long-lived perspectives that have strong notions of honour, perspectives in which honour killings make sense (whether killing a child whose sexual engagement brings shame on a family, or killing those who insult one's god or prophets), and one can see some marks of an honour culture in Torah (reenacted in some of the fringe-charedi-extreme sections of Yerushalaim). We should try to understand these things (even as we oppose them), and reject or educate people who mark them as insane - it is an inferiour philosophy that would only interfere with insane people, and mark insane anyone who looks incomprehensible to an unstretched mind. If we are to interfere with culture destructive to our values, let us do it honestly, with full understanding, and with all the care those murky waters merit. It is a simple and stupid argument to say that we treat the common practice of ancient and established cultures (honour killing) as universally-deviant, criminal behaviour, refusing to interfere with a culture that encourages it and only interfering with its instantiation (similarly with cultures and religious strands that deny medical treatment to their youth and so they die of cancer while being prayed over). We may decline to interfere for other reasons, but we should hold the highest standards for clear thinking on the matter and demand better reasoning.
I am lightly amused to be photographed in the intro book for the Gates-Hillman Centre.