I know this will get me some grief from Canadian hockey fans, but I honestly, don't care.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not cheering for Carolina or Buffalo to beat the Oilers, not at all. I could never root for an American team to beat a Canadian squad.
You see, I don't care anymore because if my only options are to root for the Oilers or to root for an American team, well, I'll watch Steve Nash play instead thanks.
Why? I'm from Calgary. If that doesn't explain it, maybe this will.
The shift to shift war of Otto vs. Messier
Glenn Anderson being Glenn Anderson. Which is to say, scoring a lot of pretty goals and being a complete dick about it every single time.
Esa Freaking Tikkanen.
and of course;
Glenn Sather and Peter Pocklington. A Bush/Cheney duo before that horrific notion was ever spawned.
Let me also be clear, this has nothing to do with Gretzky. Everybody likes Wayne, even shell-shocked Calgary fans from the battle of Alberta grudgingly respected him for being a god-being. We could root against him while also respecting his never before seen talent.
But cheer for the Oilers? Never. They have 5 cups. Calgary has one. When Calgary has six, maybe THEN I'll give the Oil some love. But not before.
Till then, I'm paying attention to one of the greatest sporting events in Canadian sport history - our two time NBA MVP and his off-this-world performance leading the Phoenix Suns.
If it's a choice between giving my boosterism to Ryan Smyth or Steve Nash, it's really no choice at all.
The NRO hacks review X-Men III with predictably hilarious results! I guess I shouldn't expect better from these guys, but some of this review is just really bad;
"As in the first two films, much of the movie is concerned with not just the fight for mutant rights, but the fight over just how to attain those rights. In the movie’s universe, mutants are the all-purpose minority interest group. The X-Men are the patient, generally peaceable crowd that wants to work from within the system and live pleasantly and equally alongside their human counterparts. Professor X runs a boarding school that offers courses on superpower ethics, while Beast heads up the government’s department of Mutant Affairs. Their idea is to lobby for their interests; think of it as the mutant K-Street project."
Mutant rights is like the K Street Project? Uh,...no. The lobbying for mutant rights is directly analgous to, oh, I don't know, the ACLU maybe? Whereas the 'K Street project' was the brainchild of GOP reptile extraordinare Tom Delay, and revolves around replacing the nominally bi-partisan lobbyists of Washington with Republican friendlies, ensuring a smooth relationship between donations, graft, etc. between the corrupt Delay congress and the corporate lobby groups. How that project dovetails with 'mutant rights' is beyond me, but its clear the attempt is to project the meme that the K-Street project is 'just the lobbying of congress'. No corruption here. Move along. But wait, this fever dream of a movie review gets even better;
"Magneto and his crew of tattooed, leather-clad nasties, though, are the mutant equivalent of ecoterrorists. They want to take human society by force and subjugate it to their whims. Where the Spider-Man movies were all about the superhero as individual, the X-Men films are all about superheroes as a group. But Ratner’s film can never bring itself to say anything more complicated than evil mutants are bad news. The film sets up a potentially interesting clash between activism and militancy, but fumbles when it comes to resolution."
In Peter Suderman's world, when an aggrieved minority seeks to subjugate humanity to it's whims, the first example he thinks of is 'ecoterrorists'. Get it? Magneto = tree huggers. The mind reels.
Here's a counter-reading for Mr. Suderman. The evil mutants under Magneto's influence want to subjugate humanity. Why?
Revenge for past wrongs and their own future security, coupled with a sense of superiority at being 'different' from everyone else. They are culture warriors who find themselves surrounded by a hostile, corrupt and violent culture, and are forced to interact with mediocre humanity and its barely restrained intolerance towards their superiority. Magneto's claim that the mutants are 'homo superior' and thus the natural inheritors of humanities leadership is nothing less than a restatement of Platonic political ideology. Those fit to rule, should (and how do you argue with Magneto that he isn't fit to rule?). Xavier's group wants to help educate humanity about the humanity of mutants. Mangeto's group wants to take control of humanity and force it to accept them - or else. Xavier's group is (as mentioned) clearly analgous to the ACLU.
Magneto's group however, aren't they clearly less like 'ecoterrorists' and a lot more like the neo/theo-cons of NRO?
Why Towel Day?
To quote from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical
value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Here then, is a backlog of stuff that I have been meaning to post as individual items, but to clean out my files, I am presenting them all here to you now, in one giant post. Feel the love!
How many planets are there in the solar system?
You'd figure that a grade schooler would be able to answer this question, right? Wrong. Astronomers are discovering that there are planetary sized bodies (i.e. bigger than Pluto) further out in the Kuiper belt. Do we count these as planets? Or do we create another classification for them? How far away do we make the cut-off?
How did life evolve?
Natural History Magazine takes a look at the current science on the origins of life. Contrast that marvelous essay with this video clip by Kent Hovind, defending the biblical time-line on origins of life. If you can sit through the entire thing without hurling either insults or something more tangibly heavy at the screen you are a better man than I.
Remember the 'Hobbit'?
Anthropologists are struggling to classify the ancient bones of a female with a remarkably distinct skull formation discovered on the remote island of Flores. Is it a potentially explosive example of Homo Erectus - one that inexplicably uses tools and other technology? Or is it simply the skeleton of a poor human woman who suffered from microencephaly?
Is belief in God(s) an evolutionary adaptation?
Daniel Dennett thinks so, and so do these guys. I suspect that they are correct, but not in the religion specific manner the way the question itself begs. I am betting that we are all wired to make inferences - some good, some bad, but more good than bad (because if they were more bad than good, we wouldn't survive so well as we would if we selected for good inferences) and the god question therefore arises from making an inference about causation where the cause inferred is some 'ineffable intelligent agent'. In other words, the way our brains are wired to succeed in the world (making more good inferences about causation) unfortunately leads us to make inferences about the supernatural that can't be proved or disproved - and so they linger.
The war against the Infidel:
It seems Americans trust atheists the least. But given that a reported 71% of Americans believe in the existence of the Devil, with a full third believing in UFOs, Astrology, and that old standby, ghosts, perhaps the problem doesn't lie with the PR representation of atheists. Me thinks instead that the real problem lies with Americans.
Interestingly enough, one potential answer to the problem of intolerance in relgion isn't to resort to my preferred secular atheism, but rather to promote what I call the 'Battlestar Galactica' solution.
Can Michael Ignatieff be rehabilitated?
IMO Yes, and he will be the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada - and subsequently, he will eventually be PM. Sorry, but Ken Dryden doesn't have enough, and everyone else is too small fry.
Shadia Drury throws down the gloves and attacks the notion of activist Judges.
One of my former profs, and easily one of my favourites. I could never have tackled the convoluted moronism of Michel Foucault without her.
The Future of Books. The Future of Movies.
On Gay Marriage and Polygamy: One of the classic rebuttals by those who don't wish to legalize Gay Marriage, is that it will lead us down the slippery slope to Sodom and Gomorrha. Usually, the argument goes like this;
"If we allow two men to marry, or two women, why not two men and a woman, or two women and a man? Why not marry your dog?"
It's a blast of horror at the notion that once a standard is revised or changed, or even examined closely, it will be undermined until all that is sensible and sacred is tarnished. Of course, it's pure bunk. There are however some serious concerns with polygamy, but they are distinct from the Gay Marriage debate entirely. As a theoretical notion, polygamy has an appeal for legal recognition, but I will argue from a practical standpoint, it is doomed.
First, here's how the two are different. Gay Marriage is still between two people, what has changed is that the barriers placed on the sex of the participants has been removed. Is this a moral relativisim that irrevocably leads us to legalizing polygamy, does changing the sex part of the marriage equation make the number of members also open to change?
By changing the laws to allow gay marriage, no existing marriage is changed, but the definition has been broadened to include those it previously didn't. My relationship with my wife is not impacted one iota by allowing others previously excluded from marriage to participate - indeed, I would argue that if the institution of marriage didn't recognize gays, a legal marriage simpy isn't worth the paperwork, and I'd have been happy to live in sin rather than support the open bigotry of marriage under those conditions.
However, allowing polygamy to be legal would definitely change my marriage. Whereas before there was no question that it was just the two of us moving forward, now the contract I agreed to has had one of its underpinings removed - the exclusivity of our relationship, and that has consequences for both of us.
That's more of a legal technicality as objections go, but there are serious policy consequences of allowing Polygamy. In theory, allowing Polygamy would create as many multi-male relationships as it would multi-female, but the facts say different. From an historical standpoint, marriage was less a romantic development than a property exchange - the security of the man's income and labour for the reproductive right of access to the woman. (Sure it's sexist, but this is the history of sex we are talking about, and I didn't design the plumbing). But we can already see how polygamy plays out in the real world - a tendency of rich men to collect as many females of breeding age as possible - with the extraneous males punted out of the commune, and the flip side, where two men marry a woman, is all but non-existant. This leads inevitably to a socio-political nightmare - few men marrying many wives leaving many without any.
My main objection though is how Polygamists 'recruit' new brides, usually by coerced marriage of a sister or relative of a current wife, often taking place well before any reasonable notion of adulthood has been reached by the potential bride.
My conclusion on the subject is this; Polyamory is fine (so long as it is above board), but legal recognition for the third or fourth party isn't, not because it violates the spirit of marriage (it clearly doesn't - lots of biblical polygamy as evidence), but because it violates the social fabric of existing marriages, and because in practice it leads to both coercion and in the harshest light, pedophilia.
In any case, there are some excellent writings on the subject, here, and some much less excellent writing here.
We Can Build You: Two very interesting developments in gene-tech.
First; what kind of pet do you want?
Second; what kind of baby do you want?
Funny enough, but the first question is probably a lot more explosive than the second. Designing the genes for a new kind of pet, is still speculative, but I suspect there would be much more opposition to my owning a genetically designed dragon, than having kids born without the genes that cause systematic blindness. Which sort of typifies how the debate on genetic modification goes. On the one hand you have people making all sorts of sci-fi claims, like the designer pets story, but on the other hand you have the practical application of science in rooting out genetic demons that plague us.
I'll paraphrase a friend of mine when I say this, but, we humans are some damn clever monkeys.
10 Things I hate about Commandments:
Check out the video, here. Hilarious!
Two Sports Questions:
Is Doug Flutie worthy of the Football Hall of Fame?
How many career home runs would Barry Bonds have if he hadn't started injecting the juice around 1998?
Debate Club News!:
No, I'm not going to talk about Liberty College and how their debate team has had it's win stats improperly construed to make them 'the top debate team in the US' - others have crapped on that analysis enough. No, the news is more disturbing than the unrelentingly polyanna PR a Christian university is getting for their debate team. It's called the 'Louisville Project' and it's about as disturbing a trend as I've ever heard of in the world of speech and debate.
As with all the walkways to hell, this one is also being paved with good intentions.
Star Trek vs. Religion and Kirk vs Picard!
In both cases, it's obvious who wins (ST and Kirk), but here are some of my favourite reasons (there were more than 1900 last I checked) given for preferring the balls-out cowboy Kirk to the mincing diplomat Picard;
Speaking of loving a good fight:
Hitchens vs Cole
It will no doubt be considered a classic comedy piece over the coming decades for several reasons;
1. It is painfully, screamingly, funny.
2. The audience made up largely of politicos, military and media are the targets of Colbert's acid satire, and for the most part, they either; don't get the joke, get the jokes but don't think they are funny, or worst of all, realize that they are in fact the joke, and Colbert is simply telling them the truth. In any case, the laughter from the audience is sparse, and at best intermittent, causing some pundits to claim he 'bombed'. Far from it. It's the sound of an entire news culture having its nose rubbed in to the reality of their craven cowardice.
What does the intellectually deranged relativism and post-Nietzche malaise of Foucault have to do with sports backwater chimera child of soccer hooliganism, rugby and head injuries, you might ask?
It seems Foucault's identity politics (how power shapes identity - in this case, how media portrayals and charcterizations reverse form a players personality) are being used to address 'character issues' in recruiting players.
In other words, frankly speaking, not a damn thing at all.
That all said this is the capper;
"Then, player salaries were lower and footy clubs were almost carefree in their risk-management practices. Nowadays, the write-off cost of a defective or disruptive footy player is bigger, and thus so are the worries of prudent footy executives. Foucault helps them to tackle those worries.
Elsewhere, the business community has been, on the whole, slow to adopt Foucault's contributions to the philosophy of accounting. But the Australian Football League has built itself a platypus of a game by incorporating odd elements from the most unexpected places. It is unafraid to throw something different - even a dead French intellectual icon - into its business plans."
So at least the owners seem 'reassured' by these Foucaultian influences, which perhaps is the best PM joke of all.
`You don't believe in me,'' observed the Ghost.
``I don't,'' said Scrooge.
``What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?''
``I don't know,'' said Scrooge.
``Why do you doubt your senses?''
``Because,'' said Scrooge, ``a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!'' - Dickens
Mea Culpa. I am saddened to point out that when I run them with a clear head, even my optimistic calculations still yield just one or two for our galaxy, and not the teeming multitude that I had thought.
Related to the Drake equation is the Fermi Paradox, which was a speculation on the presence of intelligent life in the galaxy that preceded Drake's calculation by two decades.
I've culled the following definition from an article whose response to the paradox is not only 'radical' but I think typically anthropocentric in it's limited vision.
Sometime in the 1940s, Enrico Fermi was talking about the possibility of extra-terrestrial intelligence with some other physicists. They were impressed that life had evolved quickly and progressively on Earth. They figured our galaxy holds about 100 billion stars, and that an intelligent, exponentially-reproducing species could colonize the galaxy in just a few million years. They reasoned that extra-terrestrial intelligence should be common by now. Fermi listened patiently, then asked, simply, "So, where is everybody?" That is, if extra-terrestrial intelligence is common, why haven't we met any bright aliens yet? This conundrum became known as Fermi's Paradox.
AR: I think Drake's equation coupled with modern astronomical theory solves the paradox for Fermi;
A. The premise is incorrectly understood, I suspect a function of 1920's astronomy. Intelligent life in a the universe is extremely likely given the staggeringly large number of stars that would be ideal for life to generate. However, Drake's equation shows that at any given time a galaxy of roughly our size would have only 1-5 intelligent species capable of radio transimission. So while the universe itself could be teeming with life, our own neighbourhood - the milky way, could well be barren save for us, and even if we lucked out and the number is higher, there is another problem;
B. Even if the galaxy is teeming with life, it is still a very, very, very long way away, and light speed is still the speed limit for getting any place. If you want to calculate how many alien species develop technologies that violate the light speed barrier so that they can buzz Kansas farmers at will, be my guest, but the odds on favourite way for us to discover intelligent life in the galaxy is with a radio antenna, not UFO hunters.
So there is my bashing of Fermi's paradox, but the real fun is what follows;
"I suggest a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don't blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they're too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don't need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain's ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good."
You see, Mr. Miller is an assistant professor at the university of New Mexico in Psychology, so naturally the premise for why we don't see more intelligent species in the galaxy visiting us is a psychological one, that the aliens fail to build radio antennas because they become decadent, selfish creatures addicted to pleasure.
Here is Miller again;
"I suspect that a certain period of fitness-faking narcissism is inevitable after any intelligent life evolves. This is the Great Temptation for any technological species—to shape their subjective reality to provide the cues of survival and reproductive success without the substance. Most bright alien species probably go extinct gradually, allocating more time and resources to their pleasures, and less to their children. They eventually die out when the game behind all games—the Game of Life—says "Game Over; you are out of lives and you forgot to reproduce."
AR: So the suggestion is 'they forget to reproduce'. Cuz, you know, we see that all the time. Creatures everywhere reach a stable population, and then, you know, forget to reproduce. Honey I don't feel like sex, because I have an iPod!
I'd say Miller's insight falls somewhere short of genius. But we do get further insight to both his technophobia and his erotophobia here;
"Heritable variation in personality might allow some lineages to resist the Great Temptation and last longer. Some individuals and families may start with an "irrational" Luddite abhorrence of entertainment technology, and they may evolve ever more self-control, conscientiousness and pragmatism. They will evolve a horror of virtual entertainment, psychoactive drugs and contraception. They will stress the values of hard work, delayed gratifica tion, child-rearing and environmental stewardship. They will combine the family values of the religious right with the sustainability values of the Greenpeace left. Their concerns about the Game of Life will baffle the political pollsters who only understand the rhetoric of status and power, individual and society, rights and duties, good and evil, us and them.
This, too, may be happening already. Christian and Muslim fundamentalists and anti-consumerism activists already understand exactly what the Great Temptation is, and how to avoid it. They insulate themselves from our creative-class dreamworlds and our EverQuest economics. They wait patiently for our fitness-faking narcissism to go extinct. Those practical-minded breeders will inherit the Earth as like-minded aliens may have inherited a few other planets. When they finally achieve contact, it will not be a meeting of novel-readers and game-players. It will be a meeting of dead-serious super-parents who congratulate each other on surviving not just the Bomb, but the Xbox."
AR: If the 'The Great Temptation' rings apocaplyptic I don't think that is an accident. Neither is the suggestion that Christian and Muslim fundamentalists will be the forces that end up prospering after the 'The Great Temptation' wipes out everyone else.
What Miller has really done here is make the best case possible for the fundamentalists, albeit in a language sideways from reality. The 'Great Temptation' where a species becomes narcisistically enthralled by capitalist goods dovetails with the both the conservative and apocalyptic right crowd. At its core, it is a fear that if you give people the freedom to pursue their own wishes they will choose idle pleasure over stoic labour. Pleasure then as an end, is to be eschewed as being non-productive, and discouraged. Hence, don't have sex for pleasure because it is unproductive, and etc. etc. for the whole conservative social agenda, only Miller has wrapped it all up in a fanciful tale of how we should adopt this mindset to avoid extinction, and ultimately become 'dead-serious super-parents'.
I wonder if Fermi's Paradox may be a sort of philosophical Rorsharch test whereby asking an academic to solve the paradox reveals more about the academic than about the paradox.
In this case, it's revealed a pleasure fearing conservative longing for an escape from his iPod.