An Endorsement of Those Who Are Already in Agreement

The always amicable Amelie Gillette is, of course, correct that Peep Show is worth watching (although less this season than in the past– the writing seems sort of directionless– we’ve seen Mark urinate in retaliation previously, and SuperHans has tried giving up the Crack before, too), but where these YouTube heroes are is a mystery. Try icefilms(and-then-a-dot)info, and you’ll probably find that for which you are seeking.,49035/


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sorry, Your Religious Commercial is Getting in the Way of Our Scientific History

A truly excellent, thoughtful review from Edward Rothstein of the “1001 Inventions” on view through April 24 at the New York Hall of Science, Queens:

There aren’t 1,001 inventions on display, but those that are, along with the ideas described, are meant to show that the Western Dark Ages really were a Golden Age of Islam: a thousand years, in the show’s reckoning, that lasted into the 17th century. During that era, the exhibition asserts, Muslim scientists and inventors, living in empires reaching from Spain to China, anticipated the innovations of the modern world


[…]As it turns out, though, the account requires extensive qualification. Had we learned more about scientific principles, had we been given sober assessments of, say, how 10th-century science developed, had a scholarly perspective been more evident — had we, in other words, been ushered into this world in a way once expected from science museums — the show could have been far more powerful.Instead, it is as manipulative as it is illuminating. “1001 Inventions,” we are told in the literature, “is a nonreligious and non-political project.” But it actually is a little bit religious and considerably political.It is less a typical science exhibition than a typical “identity” exhibition. It was created by the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization in London, whose goal is “to popularize, spread and promote an accurate account of Muslim Heritage and its contribution.” The show also tries to “instill confidence” and provide positive “role models” for young Muslims, as Mr. Hassani puts it in the book. And it is part of a “global educational initiative” that includes extensive classroom materials.The promotional goal is evident in every display. The repeated suggestion is that Muslim scientists made discoveries later attributed to Westerners and that many Western institutions were shaped by Muslim contributions.

Yes, this is the sort of Anthropological Advocacy that Corrupts by Flattery. Instead of presenting interesting information and exhibits, its primary purpose is Boosterism. 

Of course this is why no one takes Religious Histories written by the religions themselves (or their adherants) seriously, because the result isn’t going to be filled with self-reflection, but self-glorying Hagiography. 

Religious affiliation actually seems far more important here than is acknowledged, keeping some figures out and ushering others in.


And finally we never learn much about the role of Islam itself. Universities, we read, were affiliated with mosques. Did that affect scientific inquiry or the status of non-Muslim scientists? Did the religious regime have any impact on the ultimate failure of the transmission and expansion of scientific knowledge? And given the high cost of any golden age, isn’t it necessary to give some account of this civilization’s extensive slave trade?

Instead of expanding the perspective, the exhibition reduces it to caricature, showing Muslim culture rising out of a shadowy past to attain glories later misappropriated by Western epigones. Left unexplored too is how this tradition ended, leading to a long eclipse of science in Muslim lands. There is only a recurring hint of injustices done.The paradox is that this narrative is not only questionable but also unnecessary. An exhibition about scientific achievements during the Abbasid Caliphate could be remarkable if approached with curatorial perspective. Why then, the indulgence here?

Perhaps because one tendency in the West, particularly after 9/11, has been to answer Muslim accusations of injustice (and even real attacks) with an exaggerated declaration of regard. It is guiltily offered as if in embarrassed compensation, inspired by a desire not to appear to tar Islam with the fervent claims made by its most violent adherents.

In this case the issue is Islam and its history, but the broader problem of “exaggerated regard” is how America and its public institutions kow-tow to religion, and religious people.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s All Okay Until It Starts Costing You Money

(Get it? It’s supposed to be Oedipus.)

In case you’d gotten the idea that protecting your online privacy was only for the Paranoid, looky here! That tracking is actually costing you money:

In its most brazen form, it works like this: Retailers read the cookies kept on your browser or glean information from your past purchase history when you are logged into a site. That gives them a sense of what you search for and buy, how much you paid for it, and whether you might be willing and able to spend more.

They alter their prices or offers accordingly. Consumers – in the few cases they recognize it is going on, by shopping in two browsers simultaneously, for instance – tend to go apoplectic. But the practice is perfectly legal, and increasingly common – pervasive, even, for some products.

Banks do the same for products such as mortgages and credit cards, where prices change depending on everything from the customer’s credit rating to the manager’s whims to what browser the searcher uses. This August, the Wall Street Journal reported on a company that helps Capital One determine what credit-card deals to offer customers when they land at the site.Sellers of time-sensitive, highly price-variable goods (think airline tickets, hotel rooms, or car rentals) do it all the time, somewhat openly. If you have ever had the annoying experience of buying a plane ticket through a portal such as Kayak, then seeing the final price jump $10 or $40 at check out, you have probably found yourself on the receiving end of dynamic pricing.

Here’s one way to start protecting yourself, but there’s much more you can– and should– be doing. Keeping yourself signed out of Facebook and Google  unless you are using that page right then, and then deleting all cookies when you close your browser is the least you can do.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are You a Coward?

(Haha. Remember when Cheney was the Evil One in charge, and not Obama and Holder?)

Even Cowards shouldn’t have too much trouble attaching their name to this meaningless petition from FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting):

As journalists, activists, artists, scholars and citizens, we condemn the array of threats and attacks on the journalist organization WikiLeaks. 


Throughout this episode, journalists and prominent media outlets have largely refrained from defending WikiLeaks’ rights to publish material of considerable news value and obvious public interest. It appears that these media organizations are hesitant to stand up for this particular media outlet’s free speech rights because they find the supposed political motivations behind WikiLeaks’ revelations objectionable. 

But the test for one’s commitment to freedom of the press is not whether one agrees with what a media outlet publishes or the manner in which it is published.

Or don’t, because FAIR isn’t the NRA, and the First Amendment is flexible and not worth arguing about.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Charlie Finch, A Voice of Clarity…

As of last Saturday night, only nine people had viewed the YouTube vid of the presentation of the $100,000 Victor Pinchuk award to some forgettable Brazilian artist who combines dance and collage to make a subtle political statement, or something or other.

Held in a bare bones auditorium in Kiev, the ceremony was hosted by a thick-voiced Slavic centerfold type and a fawning Brit Ryan Seacrest lookalike, whose main task was to project portrait photos of Eli Broad, Glenn Lowry, Miucca Prada and other unmentionables who made up the Ukrainian oligarch’s selection committee. Everybody was invited up on stage for a neofascist group hug, except for Yale dean Rob Storr, who is snapped jealously regarding his frenemy Okwui Enwezor, as the African steps across the footlights.

The artist mentors are interviewed: Jeff Koons blandly saying something about “opportunities for young artists” and Damien Hirst enviously remarking that he would “rather receive awards then give them.” The Seacrestian comrade then hauls Messrs. Gursky and Murakami on stage, observing that “this is the first time all four of these artists are in the same place together.” And the next time any of them actually fabricate their own artworks will also be the first time.

Boldface added, just because highlighting it was so pleasurable.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Faith-based Organizations Require Constant Thought-Policing

FOXLEAKS: Fox boss ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science

December 15, 2010 8:08 am ET by Ben Dimiero

In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the “veracity of climate change data” and ordering the network’s journalists to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”

The directive, sent by Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, was issued less than 15 minutes after Fox correspondent Wendell Goler accurately reported on-air that the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization announced that 2000-2009 was “on track to be the warmest [decade] on record.”

This is why Daniel Sarewitz says we can’t have nice things, because all these “Democratic” scientists keep using Measurable Entities.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Try Googling “X” and See If You Can Find Anything

Nowadays no one cares about the band X, which probably has to do with no one really caring about them back in the early 1980s, when they were good. Unlike the dreadful Germs and other West Coast bands that latched onto punk music as an excuse to stand onstage and be fuckups, X understood the relationship between the punk aesthetic and American folk music.

As the video shows, front man John Doe bore some mild physical resemblance to Jim Morrison, which may have been the reason the perpetually marketing himself Ray Manzarek produced X’s first two albums. Despite the obvious Manzarek touches, Los Angeles (1980) and Wild Gift (1981) are the only solid records the band ever released.

John Doe has an extremely limited vocal range, and Exene Cervenka screeches, yet for a few years, backed up by Billy Zoom (guitar) and DJ Bonebreak (drums) they were able to do something that perfectly reflected their culture. Good (if Beat-influenced) observational writing and an ability to filter the essence and structure of earlier American sounds (particularly rockabilly and The Weavers) into their own make their early work still worth listening to.

Unfortunately, as punk’s limited appeal withered, their next efforts were marred by over-production and marketing, turning them into an only occasionally interesting Rock Band with Country Overtones, with a palpable desperation for a Hit. After that they just sucked. John Doe decided that a few badly-performed movie roles meant he should be an Actor, and Exene Cervenka thought that Lyrics were Poetry, and then worked as an Assistant Librarian at a middle school (or something).

Decades past it, they get back together fairly regularly and do the punk version of the State Fair circuit, where they all wear a lot of make-up and look like the Beach Boys.

The video looks like the clip that was in Penelope Spheeris’ 1979 documentary film The Decline of Western Civilization. Spheeris went on to direct Wayne’s World and The Beverly Hillbillies, but Part One of Decline is worth watching, mostly for X.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment