When I was an undergrad, I (naturally) had to write a lot of papers. Because I like writing (as the 1786 entries in my BLOG currently might hint), this generally didn't bother me, but I was often frustrated when specific paper topics were given because they were usually dull, vague, or ritual. Some of the paper topics for this Hitchcock class are a perfect example - "compare two films" is hardly a good use of anyone's time. Fortunately, not all of them are bad, and now that (today) my Hitchcock DVDs have arrived, I can get started. Hurrah. I am amused to read the box art gushing about H being a genius, although after a semester's worth of watching his films and talking about them (and reading interviews with him), I think I've come to agree with the evaluation. Given all the neuroses and fetishes H gives life to on screen, I wonder what kind of a person he was like to be around in real life...
The election of the next French President is in its initial stages. Given how long French Presidents tend to last, chances are this will shape European politics for quite some time to come. The BBC provides some "person on the street" commentary on people running - here's who's who (no, I only know *some* of this from memory - I had to look some of it up):
- Nicolas Sarcozy - Centre-right (same party as Chirac but of a different faction), fairly pro-EU, most likely to win
- François Bayrou - Centrist with right leanings (of the style of d'Estaing), very pro-EU (federalist)
- Phillipe de Villiers - Conservative, lightly anti-EU (and republican in style)
- Ségolène Royal - Socialist, has a lot of interesting ideas on societal steering, I'm not sure where she stands WRT the EU
- Jean-Marie Le Pen - National Front. strongly anti-EU, Jingoist
I heard that Bill Cosby is coming to speak at CMU for an upcoming graduation ceremony. I've enjoyed seeing Cosby live each of the times I've done it, at least partly because I respect Bill Cosby as a cultural figure. There's a lot that he does beyond being a comedian that most people haven't heard of. For an interesting (and controversial) speech he gave on problems in the African-American subculture in the United States, see The Pound Cake Speech. His criticisms are valid, to a certain extent, to American culture in general - while I don't think his emphasis on religion as a cure for cultural/social decay is one that I'd care to see enacted (I'd rather have liberalism and liberal philosophy combined with strong social values), this speech is important for all Americans. While the African-American subculture may be in deeper trouble than many other segments of society, the same problematic attitudes are present in many other subcultures as well. Hopefully I'll be able to see his upcoming speech as well - I'm sure he'll have interesting (and/or funny) things to say.
- Buddhist monks continue to push for state religion in Thailand. Sigh.
- Iraqis fleeing Iraq in droves. This will, of course, continue to polarise and destable Iraqi society. I imagine in a hundred years people might look back and see the American "War on Terror" as a monumental blunder. Looking for a lining of gold, I hope that this marginalises the Neoconservative faction of the Republican Party (of the United States).
- Saudi Arabia offers Kurds $2 billion to let go of an oil-rich town in Iraq. I've often wondered at how powerful the Kurdish forces/society seem to be despite their not having a state to help order them. In some ways, maybe this helps them, in that because their area straddles several tense national borders, efforts to pacify them are politically delicate, and they can rely on the sovereignty of other states to protect them (if they're clever and don't expect too much national dignity). Also, because they're not able to organise beyond a certain extent, their political factions don't need to work together to form a fully coherent society, and they have an artificial solidarity "against the enemy" (where that enemy is the state of wherever they happen to be, e.g. Turkey, Iraq, Syria, etc)
- The crisis in Darfur might be nearing an end, as Sudan accepts (under heavy pressure) UN forces patrolling conflicted regions. It'll be interesting to see how far the rebel forces go after this change.
- John Howard, PM of Australia, is taking some heat for suggesting immigration screening for HIV. Some people are even calling it racist to discriminate in that way. I don't see what the big deal is - it seems very sensible to me for states to screen out undesirables of various sorts (as per their notion, provided that their notion isn't racial), and there is long precedent for doing so.
For those of us who played Super Mario Brothers, this video will make your head explode. If any of you care to work some magic and save it for me as a FLV or MPEG, you will be my hero for some period of time.